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Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide
Last Updated: July 17, 2023
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon, though all the locals still call it that) is the largest (and most chaotic city) in Vietnam . Motorbikes, bicycles, cars, and rickshaws go wherever they please, and lots of street stands and markets spill into the traffic lanes. It’s a city with a billion things happening at once.
It’s also one of the most popular destinations in the country and has recently evolved into a hotspot for digital nomads thanks to its cheap cost of living.
The city has a lot to offer: wonderful shops, fantastic nightlife, delicious food, and plenty of historic sites. Additionally, you’ll find some interesting (and propaganda-heavy) museums like the War Remnants Museum as well as the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, secret tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. It’s my second favorite city in Vietnam (after Hoi An) and worth spending a few days visiting.
This travel guide to Ho Chi Minh can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time in this hectic metropolis!
Table of Contents
- Things to See and Do
- Typical Costs
- Suggested Budget
- Money-Saving Tips
- Where to Stay
- How to Get Around
- How to Stay Safe
- Best Places to Book Your Trip
- Related Blogs on Ho Chi Minh
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Ho Chi Minh City
1. Admire the Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame Cathedral is an imposing red brick building built between 1877 and 1883 by the French. At nearly 58 meters (190 feet), the two towers in the front of the cathedral rise above visitors and the neon-lit statue of the Virgin Mary. The cathedral still functions as a religious site and a major tourist destination, especially after gaining international recognition for a supposed sighting of a teardrop falling from the Virgin Mary statue in 2005. ( Note : The Notre Dame Cathedral is temporarily closed for renovations until 2023.
2. See the Cao Dai Holy See Temple
The Cao Dai religion (known as Caodaism) is relatively new (it’s less than 100 years old). It combines the teachings of several religions, including Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. This Cao Dai temple is the main temple for the religion and is hugely ornate and colorful, with a giant globe behind the main altar displaying the religion’s “divine eye” symbol. Entrance is free but there are a few rules to follow when visiting. You will need to enter through the side door instead of the main door and be sure to keep your shoes outside. Men will need to use the door on the right side and women on the left. Most people combine a trip to the temple with the Cu Chi Tunnels excursion.
3. Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels
Here you can crawl through the extensive network of narrow tunnels used by the Viet Cong in the 1960s to fight American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Tours involve a walk-through of the tunnels (over 100 meters of tunnels are open to visitors) which give you a sense of how the Vietnamese were able to defend their country for so long against a stronger force. It’s a sobering experience and not one for anyone claustrophobic. Tours cost around 350,000 VND.
4. Ascend the Saigon Skydeck
For a 360-degree panorama of the city, head to the Saigon Skydeck, one of the tallest buildings in the country. The observation deck is on the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower and offers amazing views. Admission costs 200,000 VND and includes a bottle of water. Just check the weather forecast ahead of time. You can also go at night to see the city lit up. Open daily from 9:30am-9:30pm.
5. Take a food tour
Other things to see and do in ho chi minh city, 1. get lost in chinatown.
Chinatown is a hive of activity and a maze of temples, restaurants, jade ornaments, and medicine shops. Aside from the sprawling Binh Tay Market, you’ll find some fascinating temples in the area including the Chinese Chua Quan Am Temple and Cha Tam, a Catholic cathedral. It’s the biggest Chinatown in the country (there are around 500,000 Chinese people living in the city alone).
2. Visit the Ho Chi Minh City Museum
At one point or another, this city museum has been a Governor’s Palace, a committee building, and a Revolutionary Museum. Today, you’ll find a collection of weaponry and memorabilia from the country’s revolutionary struggle as well as captured U.S. fighter planes and tanks from the Vietnam War. Located in the former Gia Long Palace, there are some permanent exhibitions along with special exhibitions that rotate on a regular basis (check the website for details; it has an English version). Admission costs 30,000 VND plus 20,000 VND if you want to take photos.
3. See the Emperor Jade Pagoda
This temple was built in 1909 to honor the supreme Taoist god, Emperor Jade. It’s one of the most impressive pagodas in Vietnam. It’s also referred to as the Tortoise Pagoda and the pond on site is filled with turtles. The building is filled with intricate woodcarvings and statues of divinities and heroes, including Emperor Jade himself. The roof is also covered in detailed tile work showing characters from Buddhist and Taoist legends.
4. Shop at the Ben Thanh Market
Though this market in District 1 is crowded and rife with pickpockets, it is the ideal place to pick up some handicrafts, bargain souvenirs, and try some traditional (and inexpensive) Vietnamese food. It’s the largest market in Vietnam, so get lost in the chaos and enjoy it all. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price since you will be given the “tourist price” on items here. Just keep your wallet secure and out of reach as you wander.
5. Escape to Can Gio Island
Also known as Monkey Island, Can Gio Island is popular with tourists and locals looking to escape the chaos of the city. The beaches here aren’t mind-blowing like they are in Thailand, but it’s a cool place to relax and is one of Vietnam’s better islands. The Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve (which is where the island is located) is a recognized UNESCO site and the island’s monkey sanctuary and mangroves are perfect for wildlife fans. It’s about a two-hour drive to get here and you can take the #75 bus from 23/9 Park. If you don’t feel like navigating the island by yourself, there are tours available for purchase in District 1 that provide transportation. Prices range from 590,000-1,170,000 VND for full-day tours.
6. Unwind in Twenty-Three September Park
Formerly the location of the Saigon Railway Station, this park was built in its place after the station was demolished. In the early morning and just after the work day is done, this park is packed with people exercising and playing games. Watch a Tai Chi class, play a game of badminton, or chat with one of the many students who hang out in the area. There is a large underground entertainment complex just below the park and plenty to do nearby. Bring a book and a snack and enjoy the local pace of life.
7. Visit Ba Thien Hau Temple
Located in Chinatown, the Ba Thien Hau Temple is a Buddhist temple that was built in 1706 for the Chinese sea goddess, Mazu. It’s believed she flies around on a cloud or a mat, rescuing people at sea. The outside of the temple doesn’t look like much but the inside is filled with porcelain figures and the roof is covered in colorful dioramas. On March 23rd of the lunar calendar, you can expect to see celebrations in the form of parades and dancing honoring Lady Thien Hau’s birthday (Mazu).
8. Tour the War Remnants Museum
This museum has a very “pro-communist, down-with-the-capitalists” bend to it but is nevertheless very interesting. Focused on the Vietnam War, which killed between 1,500,000-3,500,000 people, the museum’s best exhibit is the collection of bombs, tanks, planes, and war machinery, including an American F-5A fighter jet at the front entrance. The entrance fee is 40,000 VND.
9. Take a cooking class
For the best souvenir, take a cooking class. It’s a great way to learn new skills, try new dishes, and explore the country’s food culture and history. You can usually combine your cooking class with a market tour as well, allowing you to shop for your own, fresh ingredients before you cook. Tours vary but a quality tour with a local chef usually starts around 800,000 VND.
10. Catch a show at the Opera House
The Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the best-preserved examples of French colonial architecture in the country (Vietnam was annexed by France and under French control for the better part of a century). It was built in 1897 for the opera but now hosts lots of different performances, including ballet, a bamboo circus performance, and Vietnamese traditional dances and plays. Check the website or stop by the front gate to see what’s on during your visit.
Ho Chi Minh Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Hostels start from 90,000 VND for a room with 8-10 people and 140,000 VND for a bed in a smaller dorm with 4-6 beds. Most hostels offer free Wi-Fi and free breakfast. Private rooms start at around 375,000 VND for a double room, but they average closer to 470,000 VND.
Budget hotel prices – Two-star budget hotel starts at around 170,000 VND, but for something a little nicer and less bare bones, 300,000-650,000 VND per night is the average. Expect standard amenities like free Wi-Fi, AC, and TV.
Airbnb is also available, with private rooms starting from about 350,000 VND. An entire home/apartment starts at around 800,000 VND. Expect prices to double if you don’t book early.
Food – Vietnamese cuisine is fresh, flavorful, and uses a lot of herbs and vegetables. Rice and noodle dishes are common, as are various soups such as the iconic pho (a beef noodle soup). Wonton soup, meat curry, fresh French bread (known as bahn me , and grilled fish are just some of the popular dishes you’ll encounter. Standard ingredients include fish sauce, lemongrass, chili, lime, Thai basil, and mint.
You get street food for around 25,000 VND (or less). Sit-down restaurants are also inexpensive at around 90,000 VND per meal. The backpacker area, Pham Ngu Lao, has a wide range of restaurants worth checking out for good eats.
For fast food, expect to pay around 100,000 VND for a combo meal while a large pizza is around 150,000-250,000 VND. If you want to splash out, a three-course meal with a drink costs around 300,000 VND.
Beer costs around 24,000 VND while a latte or cappuccino is 50,000 VND. Bottled water is around 7,000 VND.
I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss. It really won’t be much cheaper either!
Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget of 515,000 VND per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, eat street food for all your meals, limit your drinking, take public transportation to get around, and do mostly cheap activities like museum visits. If you plan on drinking, add another 25,000-50,000 VND to your daily budget.
On a mid-range budget of 1,125,000 VND per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb or private hostel room, eat out at some restaurants, drink more, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do more paid activities like visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels.
On a “luxury” budget of 2,350,000 VND or more, you can stay in a hotel, eat out anywhere you want, hire a private guide or driver, drink as much as you want, and do whatever tours you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in VND.
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
You don’t need to do much to save money in Ho Chi Minh City as it’s super inexpensive to visit. If you stick to local cuisine, cheap guesthouses, and public transportation, you’ll be hard pressed to spend a lot of money. Nevertheless, here are some additional ways you can cut down your costs:
- Only take metered taxis – Make sure the taxi drivers turn on their meters, otherwise, drivers can rip you off. Better yet, skip them and walk or take the bus as taxi prices add up fast!
- Ask your hostel staff – Before you leave the hostel, ask them to estimate how much what you want to do should cost. How much should a ride to the museum cost? How much should you pay to have a custom dress or suit made? They will be able to give you bargaining guidelines so you don’t get ripped off.
- Eat street food – Street food in Ho Chi Minh City is inexpensive and delicious. Be sure to try a banh mi , a Vietnamese sandwich popular in the south. You can find many different kinds of noodle soup at small street stalls for just a couple bucks a day.
- Enjoy happy hour – The bars in the Pham Ngu Lao area have plenty of Happy Hours, including half-price drinks, cheap cocktails, and buy one get two free!
- Save money on rideshares – Grab is the Uber equivalent in Asia and is way cheaper than taxis. It’s the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi.
- Take a free walking tour – Free walking tours are one of the best ways to get oriented in a new city. I recommend Saigon Free Day Tours. Just remember to tip your guide at the end!
- Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water here is not safe to drink. To save money and reduce your plastic use, bring a reusable water bottle with you. LifeStraw make a reusable bottle with a built-in filter so you can be sure your water is always safe and clean.
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh
The city has a ton of hostels and cheap guesthouses.There’s lots of accommodation to choose from. Here are my suggested places to stay:
- The Hideout
- Hangout Hostel HCM
- The Like Hostel & Cafe
- City Backpackers Hostel
How to Get Around Ho Chi Minh City
Public transportation – Ho Chi Minh City has over 100 different bus routes, and you can reach all major tourist destinations this way. They’re safe and affordable, costing between 3,500-10,000 VND depending on the distance. You’ll pay the driver in cash as you get on the bus. However, if you’re going a short distance, this isn’t the most practical way to travel, as traffic is really bad here so it’s slow to get around.
Bicycle – A common way to get around the city is by bicycle, which you can ride easily since the city is so flat. You can rent a bike for about 130,000 VND per day. Some good companies to rent from include:
- Mr. Biker Saigon
- Saigon Bike Shop
- The Bike Coffee Cafe
Just a note of caution: traffic in Ho Chi Minh can be intense, so if you’re not an experienced cyclist, you may want to skip this option.
Taxis – Taxis start at around 12,000 VND for the first kilometer and 10,000 VND per kilometer thereafter. Grabbing a taxi from the airport to the center of the city should take about 30-minutes and costs about 200,000-330,000 VND. Do not take unmetered taxis!
You can also catch rides from motorcycle taxis for about 10,000 VND per kilometer or about 30,000 VND per short ride. Remember to set the price beforehand and always wear a helmet. Motorcycle taxis get you places the quickest, as they’re able to weave in and out of heavy traffic.
Cyclo – Cyclos are like tuk-tuks, except they run completely on man-power. Because cyclos are slow-moving and often a nuisance in traffic, many roads in Ho Chi Minh City are entirely closed off to them. If you choose to go this route, your driver may have to navigate around prohibited roads and may not be able to drop you off right at your address. Because of this, I do not recommend cyclos.
Ridesharing – Grab is Asia’s answer to Uber. It works the same way: you hire a local to take you somewhere via the app, and you can pay via the app or in cash. It’s often more affordable than a regular taxi too.
When to Go to Ho Chi Minh City
The driest months in Ho Chi Minh City are from December to March, making it one of the most popular times to visit. The temperatures are warm during this time, ranging between 21-34°C (70-93°F). If you can, come during the Tet Festival (Vietnamese New Year) around the end of January or the beginning of February to enjoy the colorful celebrations. Prices are jacked up during this time, however, the city is lively and there are tons of parties and activities.
April and May are the hottest months of the year with highs reaching 37°C (99°F). The humidity can make it feel a lot hotter, though.
The rainy season lasts from May to September, but as in other parts of Southeast Asia, the downpour doesn’t tend to last long. The days are sunny and warm otherwise.
Another thing to note about the monsoon season: there are several public holidays during this time that may affect your visit. The most important ones are Vietnam Reunification Day on April 30th, May Day on May 1st, and Vietnam National Day on September 2nd. Shops and restaurants may be closed and public transit is unreliable.
How to Stay Safe in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is a very busy city, but it’s a safe place to visit. Violent crime against travelers is very rare, but petty crime and theft are not. In crowded places, keep your purse/wallet close and be mindful of the activity around you. Don’t keep your cell phone or money in your hand as you’re walking around. Additionally, don’t leave your bags unattended when eating out. Always secure them so someone can’t grab them and run.
Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here. The standard precautions apply as they do everywhere. For specific tips, check out one of the many solo female travel blogs on the web that go into more detail.
Traffic can be hard to navigate here. Motorbikes are everywhere, and as a pedestrian, crossing the street can be scary. Wait for a break in the traffic before crossing the road, but then don’t slow down or adjust your gait. Just make a beeline to the other side so the drivers can weave around you.
Be on the alert for scams. Most are really just cheap attempts to try to nickel and dime you so you’ll need to be vigilant. You can read about common travel scams to avoid here .
If you experience an emergency, dial 113 for assistance.
Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
The most important piece of safety advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Agoda – Other than Hostelworld, Agoda is the best hotel accommodation site for Asia.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
- LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
- Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Vietnam travel and continue planning your trip:
Is Southeast Asia Safe for Travelers?
Biking the Mekong Delta in Vietnam
Why I’ll Never Return to Vietnam
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- Where To Stay
- Booking Resources
- Related Blogs
Explore Ho Chi Minh City
Plan Your Trip to Ho Chi Minh City: Best of Ho Chi Minh City Tourism
Travel advice, essential ho chi minh city.
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Ho Chi Minh City Is Great For
Artisans of saigon's past and present.
Craft breweries and bars
Historical monuments and landmarks
Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Ho Chi Minh City
In the words of those who've been there before ...
What is the best way to get there?
Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) is the usual destination for those coming to the south of Vietnam.
Do I need a visa?
Most visitors will need a visa to enter Vietnam. People in many African countries and parts of Asia are exempt from Vietnam visa requirements. Citizens of North American and European countries will need to obtain a visa. Check out this website to find out if you need to apply for a visa.
When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is during the drier months of December to March when temperatures range between 70 Fahrenheit (21 Celsius) and 93 Fahrenheit (34 Celsius). Many like to visit during the Tet Festival (Vietnamese New Year) in late January or early February. The whole country joins in the festivities and it's a colorful spectacle, but prices are higher and getting around may be difficult due to the large numbers of people traveling.
See more about the weather in Ho Chi Minh City here .
Crossing the road in Saigon can be a nightmare. The trick is to disconnect the part of your brain that processes fear. Be Moses. Walk slowly and confidently — the sea of motor scooters will part every time.
This is the absolute most fun way to see this town. Note that your moto driver will be getting a kickback from some places he’s recommending. He needs it to live, so if you get a good moto, tip well.
If you decide that you want to experience riding around the city yourself, you can hire a motorbike for about 10$/day. Riding a motorbike requires a Vietnamese driving license, if you get a visa longer than 3 months, you are eligible for one.
Read more about getting around Ho Chi Minh City here .
Are there local customs I should know?
Read more about the culture in Vietnam here .
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- Viet Kitchen
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- The Cafe Apartments
- Home Saigon Restaurant
- Cu Chi Tunnels
- War Remnants Museum
- Ben Thanh Market
- Bui Vien Street
- Saigon Square Shopping Mall
- Cu Chi Tunnels Luxury Tour - Morning or Afternoon
- Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta Full Day Tour
- Mekong Delta Tour from HCM City - Discover the Delta's Charms
- Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta - Luxury Tour from HCM City
- Private Street Food Tour by Motorbike/Car with Local Students
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Live fully in Vietnam
Vietnam opens its door widely to welcome visitors all around the world! Starting from 15th August 2023, Vietnam extends e-visa validity to 90 days and unilateral visa exemption will be valid in 45 days! We are more than happy to welcome you all here and admire our stunning landscapes, free your soul on white sandy beaches, experience our unique and beautiful culture and meet the people in the most friendly country. Particularly, to indulge in our scrumptious cuisine at Michelin rated restaurants or to join us in outstanding mega culture, music, sports and tourism events! Let’s live to the fullest in Vietnam!
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15 Incredible Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City – formally known as Saigon – is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam . From delicious food to beautiful French architecture to an up-and-coming craft beer scene, you’ll find no lack of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
Too often this booming metropolis is just a quick stopping point on many people’s Vietnam itinerary before heading to the north to Hoi An, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. But we think it’s a shame not to spend at least a few days in this big, bustling city. You can learn about the Vietnamese-American war at the War Remnants Museum, sip coffee at endless cute coffee shops, and party at posh rooftop nightclubs.
After traveling all over Vietnam, we actually made the decision to live in Saigon . And having explored all of the incredible things that this city has to offer, we have compiled our list of the best things to do in Saigon. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Tips
- The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). At the time of writing, the conversion rate was ~24,600 VND to $1 USD. So if we say that something costs 100,000 VND, that’s just about $4.10 USD.
- Make sure you pick up a local Vietnamese SIM card . Internet is incredibly cheap and you’ll find it’s quite handy to have for using Google Maps and Grab to get around town. We recommend buying one at the airport as soon as you land.
- Instead of taking taxis, download Grab – it’s the Uber of SE Asia ! You can just type your address into the app rather than having to explain it to the driver and you don’t need to negotiate the price before getting in.
- Saigon is organized into “Districts”, or neighborhoods. The “ex-pat community” is in District 2 and the “backpacker area” is in District 1. We live in District 4 because it is centrally located, but less expensive than District 1. Each District has its own unique offerings – for more info on the different districts, you can check out our ex-pat guide to Saigon !
- For more Vietnam travel tips, read our list of 15 things to know before visiting Vietnam !
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
The Myst Dong Khoi
The Myst Dong Khoi is a spectacular hotel, perfect if you are looking for a luxurious getaway. The rooftop pool is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Rooms are light and bright with classic decor and super comfortable beds.
Check Prices on Booking.com
Cochin Zen Hotel
The Cochin Zen Hotel is a truly lavish hotel in District 1, situated halfway between Ben Thanh market and Reunification Palace. You’ll love enjoying a refreshing cocktail on the rooftop pool with a view as well as working out in the well-equipped fitness center. Rooms are modern with every amenity you could wish for!
The Hammock Hotel
The Hammock Hotel offers something that you don’t get very often in your hotel – your own private hammock! Plus a free minibar full of snacks and beers that is restocked daily during your stay. You’ll love everything about this trendy hotel!
The 15 Best Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh City
1. visit the independence palace.
The Independence Palace (also known as the Reunification Palace) was originally called Norodom Palace. It was the base for Vietnamese General Ngo Dinh Diem until his death in 1963. Diem was incredibly unpopular and the palace was bombed by his own air force in 1962 in an attempt to assassinate him. So he decided to build a new residence there, but one that included a bomb shelter in the basement in case it happened again. His fears were realized when he was murdered by his own troops.
The new residence, the Reunification Palace became the home to the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War (or American War as it is called here). It is an incredible example of 1960s architecture. It is open-air, with classic 60s-style furniture and decor. Meeting rooms dominate the lower floor, with an impressive bar on the second floor, and a bomb shelter and communication hub in the basement.
This was also the site that ended the Vietnam War when a North Vietnamese army tanker crashed through the main gate in 1975. These days, a visit to Reunification Palace is on every visitor’s Ho Chi Minh City bucket list . It is also depicted on the 200,000 VND note.
Opening Hours: Daily from 8:00am – 3:30pm Entrance Fee: 65,000 VND for adults, 15,000 VND for children
Tour the Reunification Palace
2. See the War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum is an incredibly moving experience, one that will change the way you think about the casualties of the Vietnam War. As US citizens, most of us have been sheltered from the atrocities that our country inflicted on Vietnam. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll leave this museum feeling shocked and emotional.
The outside area contains a display of various vehicles and weapons that were used during the war. And the ground floor has a display of anti-war posters and memorabilia. As you climb up the stairs, the museum gets more interesting as well as more difficult to see.
Photos of the aftereffects of the chemical Agent Orange that was dropped all over Vietnam are incredibly sad and overwhelming. Disabilities that have resulted due to exposure to the chemical have passed down several generations. The Requiem exhibition of photos of journalists who were killed during the conflict is also heartbreaking.
A visit to the War Remnants Museum is sure to be an eye-opening and emotionally draining experience. It may not be a fun afternoon, but it is still one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
Opening Hours: Daily from 7:30 – 18:00 Entrance Fee: 40,000 VND per person
Tour the War Remnants Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels
3. Send a letter at the Post Office
Another one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is to send a letter from the central post office!
The Ho Chi Minh City Post Office was constructed in the late 1800s with Gothic architectural influences. It is by far the most impressive piece of French architecture in the city.
While the building is impressive from the outside, the interior really steals the show. Marvel at the grand arches inside, the beautiful marble floors, and the row of old wooden telephone booths on the left-hand side.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Central Post Office is actually still in use and on most days you’ll find it buzzing with activity. One activity that visitors to Vietnam love is buying a few postcards from one of the souvenir stands and sending them to friends and family back home.
The post office is right near the Notre Dame Basilica , the city’s cathedral, which is also worth a visit.
See HCMC on a Private Scooter Tour
4. Shop Til You Drop!
The most popular place for tourists to shop in Ho Chi Minh City is Binh Than Market. Note that we said it is the most popular place – not the best. We find it to be crowded, overpriced, and full of generic trinkets. Prepare to get hassled by the overzealous ladies at each booth. And if you do decide to buy something at Binh Than Market, be sure to negotiate prices. You should pay 50-75% of their initial offering price.
For a more authentic market experience, you should check out Binh Tay Market in District 5. We also like the following markets:
- Central Market (Address: 4 Phạm Ngũ Lão)
- Saigon Square 1 (Address: 81 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa)
- Russian Market (Address: 328 Võ Văn Kiệt)
If you are more interested in shopping where the locals do, there are several large malls around town – Vincom Center Mall and Saigon Centre Mall are both conveniently located in District 1.
If you want something a bit more unique, we would recommend that you try out The New Playground (Address: 26 Lý Tự Trọng) for all of the latest fashion from hip Vietnamese clothing brands. It’s located just across the street from Vincom Center Mall. We also love the Hello Weekend Market which changes location every few weeks – check out their Facebook page for more details.
We actually wrote a whole guide about shopping in Ho Chi Minh City that you should check out if you want to do some serious shopping while you’re in town.
Book a Ho Chi Minh Local Guided Tour
5. Embrace Saigon’s Coffee Culture
Vietnamese people are quite passionate about their coffee. And you’ll find cute coffee shops on virtually every corner of the city.
If you want to get some work done, check out The Workshop in District 1. They have coffee-snob-worthy brews, reliable Wi-Fi, and plenty of seating for everyone. If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy coffee shot, Padma de Fleur is a florist turned coffee shop where your beverage comes served with a tiny bouquet. And L’Usine is an upscale coffee shop with some delectable American breakfast classics.
There are also several reliable coffee shop chains around town if you just want to get a quick coffee fix on the go. Phuc Long Coffee (pronounced “ phoop lawm “) is our favorite classic Vietnamese coffee and Cong Caphe serves up some of the best coconut coffee in the country.
Also, while egg coffee may have originated in Hanoi , you’ll still find plenty of cafes serving up amazing egg coffee in Saigon . Try the amazingly cute Goc Ha Nội coffee shop tucked down a little alleyway off of Bui Vien Street or the hip Okkio Cafe near Ben Thanh market.
For more recommendations, read our post about the best coffee shops and cafes in Ho Chi Minh City .
6. See the Skyline from the Bitexco Tower
At 860 feet in height, the Bitexco Financial Tower is the tallest tower in Saigon to date. It provides absolutely spectacular views of the city below and is a must-visit when the skies are clear! The Saigon Skydeck is the observation deck on the 49th floor. Adults must pay 200,000 VND to catch the view from the observation deck and children 4-12, seniors, and people with disabilities will pay 130,000. Combine with the World of Heineken for 50,000 VND more (includes two drinks).
If that cost seems steep just for a view, consider checking out the EON Heli Bar on the 52nd floor. It doesn’t give you 360° views like the sky deck, but it’s free to enter. Cocktails are rather expensive by Vietnam standards but it’s a small price to pay for the amazing view.
Opening Hours: Daily from 9:30am – 9:30pm. The last ticket sold 45 minutes prior to closing time. Entrance Fee: 240,000 VND/adult, 160,000 for children 4-12, seniors, and people with disabilities
Enjoy Panoramic Views from Bitexco Tower:
7. Sample Saigon’s Craft Beer
Ho Chi Minh City has an amazing up-and-coming craft beer scene. Brewers from beer capitals around the world are moving here to try new and interesting flavor combinations. Tasting rooms are trendy and lively, and most also offer yummy snacks to complement their brews.
We loved the craft beer in Saigon so much that we wrote an entire post about it – The Best Microbreweries in Saigon !
Go on a Saigon Craft Beer Tour
8. Eat Seafood on Vinh Khanh Street
Have you been dreaming about slurping snails out of their shells while sitting on a tiny plastic stool on a busy street in Saigon? Well, you’re in luck because Vinh Khanh Street is lined with restaurants serving all types of fresh, tasty seafood. Figuring out how and what to order can be tricky so check out our complete guide to eating snails in Vietnam !
Explore Authentic Vietnamese Street Food
9. Stroll along the Pedestrian Mall
Nguyen Hue Street is a wide pedestrian-only area that runs directly in front of the People’s Committee, all the way to the river. It is off-limits to vendors and motorbikes so it is one of the only places in the city where you can walk without being concerned about getting hit or hassled.
There is a large, picturesque statue of Ho Chi Minh and a fountain that puts on a show in the evenings. Not only is it a lovely place to have a stroll, but the street is also lined with quaint coffee shops, delicious restaurants, and shops. Be sure to stop into Apartment 42 (sometimes called the “Cafe Apartments”) – an old apartment building that now contains trendy shops and eateries! If you’re facing the People’s Committee, it’s on the right-hand side, you can’t miss it.
10. Party on Bui Vien Street
Bui Vien is the backpacker street of Saigon. It’s similar to Khao San Road, but not quite as crazy. Filled with bars playing dance music, small beer shops with plastic tables spilling into the street, restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques – you can see why backpackers love it.
Bui Vien is labeled as a “walking street” but that is most certainly not true. The sidewalks are filled with parked motorbikes and restaurant tables so you’ll be forced to walk in the street most of the time. And cars and motorbikes frequently drive on Bui Vien so they’ll be whizzing by you while you make your way down the crowded street.
Start your evening at a bar with outdoor seating so you can watch the madness unfolding around you. And later you can wander into whatever bar seems the liveliest! No doubt you’ll be partying here until the wee hours of the morning.
Experience Saigon Local Nightlife
11. Check out the Ho Chi Minh City Museum
If you want to learn more about the history, culture, and tradition of Ho Chi Minh City, this museum is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Not only is the building itself quite beautiful, but it also has a variety of interesting exhibitions housing archaeological artifacts, currencies, and old ceramic remnants. The museum extensively covers Vietnam’s fight for independence as well.
Outside you’ll find several war machines, including the jet that was used by a South Vietnamese soldier to bomb the Reunification Palace.
Opening Hours: Daily from 8:00am – 6:00pm Entrance Fee: 30,000 VND/person
12. Listen to Live Music
There are quite a few live music venues in Ho Chi Minh City where up-and-coming locals sing American hits. One of our favorites is at the Ben Thanh Street Food Market , directly across the street from the souvenir market that bears the same name. Every Tuesday and Saturday night from 7:30 – 9:30 pm they have young artists performing your favorite hits. Plus they have a bunch of food and drink vendors for you to choose from!
Yoko Cafe is another great music venue in town. They have a wide variety of acts from blues to pop to acoustic. The space is small so be sure to arrive early if you want a table. Check their Facebook page to see what shows are coming up. Regardless of the artist, you’re sure to have a great time!
13. Dine on Dumplings in Chinatown
Chinatown is located in District 5 and is a great dining option if you are sick and tired of Vietnamese food. The dumplings here rival those that you’ll find at the best dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, and for a fraction of the price!
We loved Sủi Cảo Đại Nương (address: 125 Duong Chau Van Liem, Phuong 14, Quan 5) but ordering was a bit confusing. You can order your dumplings fried, steamed, or in soup (or order all three as we did).
14. Take a Trip to the Mekong Delta
Visiting the Mekong river delta is probably the most touristy thing you can do around Ho Chi Minh City, but worth it if you’d like to see a bit of the countryside. It’s also easy to get off the beaten path if you plan your own Mekong Delta trip .
If you do decide to go with a tour group, there are two standard tour options. The shorter tour takes you to a small village where you’ll see a small honey factory and a candy shop. You’ll get to enjoy music by the locals and take a short boat ride on the Mekong. You’ll be encouraged to buy honey and candy and you’ll be asked for tips at the show and on your boat. It’s a bit off-putting but you can give a small amount or nothing at all if you prefer.
The longer tour takes you to a floating market in the Mekong river delta town of Can Tho . Or you can do a multi-day tour. No matter which tour you choose, expect a bit of a show but know that your tourism dollars are helping these communities.
Book a Mekong Delta Tour
15. Climb Through the Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are 75 miles of interconnecting tunnels that were used by the Vietnamese military during the Vietnamese War (or American War as they call it). They served as hiding spots and as routes for communication and supplies.
Many soldiers even lived in these tunnels for periods although living conditions were bleak. Of course, air and water were not readily available, but they also had to deal with the creatures living underground. Many soldiers became ill while living in the tunnels and malaria was not uncommon.
Today, tourists are invited to crawl around in the safer parts of the tunnels to experience what life was like for the soldiers during the war. If you have breathing difficulty or experience claustrophobia, this tour probably isn’t for you.
Book a Cu Chi Tunnels Tour
That’s it – 15 of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City! Did we miss your favorite Saigon activity? Let us know in the comments below .
Want even more information on things to do in Vietnam? Check out our favorite travel guides!
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About the Author:
Val grew up in Portland, Oregon but moved to Oahu on a whim back in 2013. She sold her house and all of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket. Since then she’s taken two around-the-world trips and has visited 60-ish countries while living out of a duffel bag. Val started documenting the Wandering Wheatleys travels back in 2013 as a way to update friends and family about her whereabouts and to relay humorous daily interactions. The only readers were her mom and her mother-in-law but that didn’t stop her! These days you’ll find Val dreaming up future trips, creating new travel content, managing a team of amazing travel enthusiasts, and chasing around her two adorable but naughty kids.
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7 thoughts on “15 incredible things to do in ho chi minh city (saigon)”.
Of course you need to tip in Vietnam, just like anywhere else you want good service in the world..its better to tip ahead..
I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well. Thanks for sharing this information.
Should I buy my Cu Chi Tunnels tour online or in person when I arrive in HCMC? How much should I expect to pay for a no-frills tour?
The War Remnants Museum is great. Of course it’s all from the Vietnamese perspective, detailing American atricities but none of the Vietnamese.
Thank you for a such comprehensive guide. It has been a great help.
Eon Heli Bar closed two years ago. Just checked.
Do you mean the Heineken world ? Is it still closed ? I’m currently in Ho Chi Minh and was really looking forward to going.
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23 Things To Do In Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City): Top Attractions!
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Are you ready for some action?
Saigon (also officially known as Ho Chi Minh City or locally in Vietnamese as Sài Gòn) is Vietnam’s most booming up and coming city, a places where the action never stops.
In this post I’m going to go over 23 of what I think are the top things you can do and see when you’re in Saigon.
Get ready to dodge motorbikes, navigate through market alleys, inhale some incense smoke at temples, and squat on the sidewalk while slurping down bowls of hot noodles .
But first, let’s begin with a little bit of useful information…
Where to stay in Saigon?
While I was in Saigon, I walked around some of the most popular areas to stay, and here’s some information about some of the top choices:
Dong Khoi: Upscale options
Many of the large 5 star hotels are located in the Dong Khoi area of Ho Chi Minh City – it’s known as being one of the most prestigious areas of the city.
You’ll find hotels like the classic Hotel Majestic Saigon and the famous Continental Hotel Saigon , located adjacent to the Opera House.
If you’re looking to stay in a fancy five star hotel, surrounded by French colonial architecture and lush cafes, Dong Khoi is one of the best areas to base yourself during your stay.
Pham Ngu Lao (District 1)
Sort of like Bangkok’s Khao San road, the area of Pham Ngu Lao , and also Bui Vien Street, is the most famous budget backpacker district of Ho Chi Minh City.
There are dozens of hotels, guest houses, and hostels along these two streets, ranging from very budget to mid-range, and I even noticed a few (sort of out of place) higher end hotels on Bui Vien Street as well.
Since this area is dominated by foreign backpackers and travelers, Pham Ngu Lao is also a big party nightlife area, and among the hostels are numerous bars, nightclubs, and massage parlors.
If you want to be right in the thick of the energy of Ho Chi Minh City, with plenty of restaurants (many international restaurants) and nightlife options, and just a short walk from the famous Ben Thanh Market, Pham Ngu Lao is a good area to look for accommodation.
Ben Thanh Market area
Just a short walk across the park from Pham Ngu Lao is the most well known central area of Ho Chi Minh City, the area that surrounds the landmark Ben Thanh Market .
There are plenty of hotel options in the streets surrounding the market, and this is the area where many tour groups stay.
Many of the hotels around Ben Thanh Market are mid range to upper level, but the location is extremely central and there are plenty of attractions and things to do in the area.
I’d say the Ben Thanh Market area is one of the best places to base yourself.
Where did I stay?
I stayed on Pham Ngu Lao for a few days, but then I transferred to LeBlanc Saigon Hotel , a family run guest house in a local friendly neighborhood just north of Tao Dan Park.
It’s out of the main touristy area, so it’s more of a local experience, but the hotel is very nice, family run, and the Vietnamese food in the area is fantastic. I would highly recommend it.
A Few Tips on Safety
You may read some stories of theft and snatching in Ho Chi Minh City.
And just like any fast and busy city, there’s always going to be a risk of carrying belongings with you. One of the main safety concerns in Ho Chi Minh City are thieves swiftly swinging by on motorbikes and grabbing bags or mobile phones or cameras, right out of your hand.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce the risk:
- Phone – Never pull out and use your mobile phone facing or open to the busy street. When I busted out my phone I usually went to the side of the street, and tried to duck into a business patio and sheltered myself with the wall.
- Camera – Likewise with a camera, you sort of have to use your own discretion of when and when not to be holding your camera out in the open to take photos. Again, try to have your back against a wall or stand to the back of parked motorbikes when you take photos of the open roads to provide a bit of a bunker.
- Wallet – I typically like to keep my wallet in my front right pocket, and then I like to keep some small money in my left pocket. When I buy something small on the streets, I just reach into my left pocket to pay, rather then having to take out my entire wallet. Use whatever system works best for you, but it’s a good idea to have some small money to buy small things, where you don’t have to take out your full wallet.
- Touristy areas – The majority of muggings happen in touristy shopping areas, so use extremely caution with your valuables in these areas.
However, just to reassure you, many of the people in Saigon are extremely friendly and very kind.
When I was eating street food and walking around Saigon, I was greeted by dozens of friendly people. So don’t be too uptight, enjoy and experience as much as you can, but do take some precautions as mentioned above.
How to get around Saigon
Just like in Bangkok, there are many different methods of getting around Saigon, and you may have to take a couple of methods to get somewhere you want to go.
Though I’ve heard a rail or subway system may be in the plan, as of now, it’s all ground transportation in Saigon.
From the Airport to the City
If you fly into Saigon, you’ll arrive at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport.
From there, the easiest way to get to your hotel is probably to take a taxi. Walk outside of the airport, take a left, and you’ll see the taxis waiting for you. Vinasun is a good brand to choose. It cost me a little under 160,000 VND to get from the airport to the Pham Ngu Lao area.
You can also take the bus, which costs just 5,000 VND (pictured above). Walk out of the airport, cross the street, and look for bus #152. The bus will take you all the way to Ben Thanh Market.
With motorbikes that control the streets and even sidewalks, Saigon is not quite as pleasant as a city for walking as somewhere like Tokyo .
But that being said, I like to think of walking in Saigon as sort of like an obstacle course; You’ve got to dodge oncoming objects, jump over blockades, go around sprawling businesses, and cross the rivers of motorbike traffic.
For most of my time in Saigon, especially in the central areas of town, my wife and I walked everywhere (but we are kind of crazy for walking, we like to walk so we can eat more).
Some of the central and most famous things to do in Ho Chi Minh City are located within walking distance, if you can handle the traffic and heat (and traffic fumes).
I think walking is one the best ways to explore any city, and you can stop whenever you like, and find delicious food along your route.
By far the most noticeable way everyone that lives in Ho Chi Minh City gets around is by motorbike (also known as the scooter).
Saigon may very well be the scooter capital of the world. There’s an astounding quantity of scooters in the city.
There are two ways to join the army of motorbike scooter traffic:
- Rent a motorbike – If you have the confidence to rent and drive a motorbike yourself, there are plenty of rentals agencies, especially located in the Pham Ngu Lao area. You’ll probably pay around $10 per day.
- Motorbike taxi – On just about every corner of every street in Saigon, you’ll see men reclining on their motorbikes, sometimes sleeping, sometimes just gazing into the traffic and patiently waiting. These men are motorbike taxi drivers. For a price, they will take you anywhere in the city you want to go, small journeys usually start around 20,000 – 40,000 VND.
Take the local bus
The bus system in Saigon is actually quite good (and not too difficult to figure out if you just go up and down some of the main streets), and it’s a very cheap and safe way to get around town.
There’s a color coded map , and though it’s kind of blurry to see all the numbers and city bus routes, it does help to plan a bus route to somewhere you’d like to go.
My wife and I took the bus in Saigon many times during our stay, and some buses cost 5,000 VND and others were 6,000 VND per ride.
The biggest challenge of taking the bus in Saigon is figuring out all the one-way streets, but just study the bus map a bit, and you can easily take it at least up and down the main streets.
Before you go to Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll probably read some articles about how bad the taxis are.
Yes, there can be fakes, and drivers occasionally do some extra driving to rack up the meter. But on a whole, I thought the taxis were quite reliable, and even many of the drivers were quite friendly.
We hardly had a problem with taking any taxis when we were in Saigon, and they are very affordable, and I really like how they are almost all comfortable vans.
However, when you take a taxi in Saigon make sure you take a reliable company and pay attention to confirm the taxi is an authentic brand. Also I like to keep my phone GPS with the map open so I can follow where the taxi is going to make sure we’re on track.
Here are the main best taxi companies:
- Vinasun – Vinasun is one of the most reliable taxi companies in Ho Chi Minh City, and they are also one of the largest. You’ll see Vinasun taxis, with their green and red stripe, everywhere you go in the city. Just make sure the logo is correct and make sure the phone number (38 27 27 27 – written on the side of the taxi) is correct as well.
- Mai Linh – Mai Linh is the other big taxi company in Ho Chi Minh City. Honestly though, I probably took Vinasun 90% of the time.
- Uber – Uber, the private cab service, is available in Ho Chi Minh City, and it’s beginning to take off. Once you download the application, you locate an Uber, and payment is handled all online, so you never have to touch cash. We used Uber quite a bit, and it’s almost the same price, if not a bit cheaper than normal taxis (at the time of writing this, things could change).
Alright, now that you know where to stay in Saigon and how to get around, let’s jump right into these 23 things to do when you’re in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
1. Binh Tay Market
You’re going to hear most about Ben Thanh Market.
But I actually found Binh Tay Market to have better prices, be a more local experience, and I overall enjoyed visiting it more than Ben Thanh.
Binh Tay Market is one of the major official markets, located in the Cholon area of Ho Chi Minh City, what is Chinatown.
It has a similar feel to it as Ben Thanh, and even many of the products that are sold – from clothes to food – are basically quite similar.
However, from what I noticed in my few visit to both markets, Binh Tay Market caters a bit more to local Vietnamese, and therefore the prices are lower, and overall a little less touristy geared.
Before going to Binh Tay Market, I had read about it from Eating Asia that, there was a wet market in the morning behind the market.
If you go in the morning, anytime from about 6 am – 8 am, walk around the back streets of the official indoor market, and you’ll find an incredible fresh wet market, teeming with food and fresh Vietnamese ingredients.
This back lane fresh food market, was probably my favorite part of visiting Binh Tay Market, and one of the top places I would recommend seeing in Saigon.
And also, don’t miss the small food court, where you can get some delicious, simple, and affordable Vietnamese food.
I had a plate of noodles fried with beef (mì gói xào bò), and sitting on a stool in the morning while eating and drinking coffee, I was extremely happy.
If you are looking to do some shopping when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, at Binh Tay Market you’ll find just about everything made or produced in Vietnam from clothes to snacks. There’s a huge section of Vietnamese cooking utensils, nuts, spices, and tools.
Address : Bình Tây Market, 57 Tháp Mười, 2, Quận 6, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : 6 am – 7 pm daily for the main indoor market section, 5 am – 9 am or so for the outdoor wet market How to get there : The market is located in District 5, and it’s easiest to just jump in a taxi to get there. From Ben Thanh Market it cost me 110,00 VND, and the ride took about 15 minutes.
2. Thien Hau Temple (Pagoda)
Located in the Chinatown area (District 5) of Ho Chi Minh City and built back in the 19th century, Thien Hau Temple is dedicated to Thien Hau, the Lady of the Sea ( source ).
From the outside, the pagoda honestly didn’t look amazing.
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The entrance wall face was well weathered, rather unmaintained (but this did also give it an ancient feel), and it had almost a haunted feeling to look at.
However, as soon as you step inside, the beauty of the temple, mostly through the intricate details and carvings, is revealed.
One of my favorite parts of going to Thien Hau Pagoda in Saigon were the incredible sculpture reliefs carved on the upper roof section of the temple, depicting scenes of daily life.
They were colorful, but weathered, and had accumulated years and years of incense smoke, making the sculptures look ancient and dusted in black soot.
Another highlight were the giant coils of incense that burn slowly, hanging from the ceiling, and filling the temple and atmosphere with smoke.
Ho Chi Minh City has a very strong Chinese presence, and when you’re at Thien Hau Pagoda you’ll feel like you’re actually in China. The pagoda is well worth visiting when you’re in Cholon (Saigon’s Chinatown).
Address : Thiên Hậu Temple, 710 Nguyễn Trãi, phường 11, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : 8 am – 4:30 pm daily Entrance price : Free How to get there : The temple is located in Cholon, District 5. It’s easiest to get there by taxi.
3. Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
In the past you might have heard of the Gia Long Palace or the Revolutionary Museum, but now, the same place is officially known as the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City or HCMC Museum.
When my wife and I visited, on a weekday in the middle of the morning, it wasn’t busy at all (unlike the War Remnants Museum which was packed out), so it was nice to peacefully walk around and enjoy the exhibitions.
Most of the displays show the history and making of Ho Chi Minh City, and also there are a number of Vietnamese culture exhibits as well.
But what I liked best, was just the amazing mansion palace that the Ho Chi Minh City Museum was housed in, yet another beautiful neoclassical structure built in 1885, with big pillars and wooden staircases.
This museum, I thought, was a little old and sleepy, but for just 15,000 VND for entrance price, I thought it was still worth having a quick browse.
Address : Hồ Chí Minh City Museum, 65 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : 8 am – 5 pm daily Entrance price : 15,000 VND How to get there : The HCMC Museum is located near the Dong Khoi area of the city, walking distance from the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
4. Bitexco Financial Tower
Standing taller than any other building in Ho Chi Minh City, and towering to the sky, is a skyscraper that’s made to look like a lotus bulb , known as Bitexco Financial Tower.
From a distance, or from the sky, it’s easily the most recognizable building in Ho Chi Minh City, for its tallness and for its modern design.
There are a number of things you can do when you’re at the Bitexco Financial Tower, but by far the most popular attraction is to take advantage of the height of the building to get a view of the city.
The bottom floor of the tower is a small shopping center, with a few cafes, but there’s not really much else. The majority of the building is occupied by offices.
There are two choices for visiting Bitexco Financial Tower for a chance to see the amazing view of the city.
- Saigon Skydeck – Located on the 49th floor, this observation deck offers a panoramic view of the city. This is sort of an official Ho Chi Minh City attraction, and after you pay the entrance, you are free to browse around the floor and enjoy the views.
- Eon Cafe – Located on the 50th floor, and not connected to the Saigon Skydeck, is Eon Cafe, a way overpriced cafe and bar where you can come at the expense of buying a drink. Since having a drink or food in hand will always sway my decisions, I decided to go to the cafe (instead of going to the Skydeck). The coffee was good, but extremely expensive, and the cafe looked kind of like a night-club. But nevertheless, I did enjoy the marvelous view of Saigon while sipping my coffee drip by drip.
So I personally can’t speak for the Saigon Skydeck, but whichever place you choose, for sure you’ll have an incredible view of the city.
Address : 36 Hồ Tùng Mậu, Bến Nghé Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : 9:30 am – 9:30 pm daily (for Skydeck), 11:30 am – 11 pm daily for cafe Entrance price : 200,000 VND for Skydeck entrance. I went to the cafe and paid 130,000 VND for a tiny cup of ristretto – looked like about ¼ of a shot of coffee. How to get there : From the Ben Thanh Market area, you can walk to Bitexco Financial Tower, otherwise a quick taxi ride is a good option.
5. Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)
Now a museum, but still used for official government meetings and events, the Independence Palace was the former home of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
After buying a ticket you can then go inside, and walk around a few of the floors to see all sorts of rooms including meeting rooms, dining rooms, and lounges that are fit for royalty.
Every room and space within the Independence Palace is still furnished with original chairs and tables.
The round dragon carpet, located on the second floor, a huge circular red carpet with a dragon etched into the middle, was something I thought was pretty amazing.
After navigating through a few floors and seeing the helicopter pad, you can then head to the basement where you’ll find some slightly scary offices, control rooms, and bunkers.
It was very interesting to visit the Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, and I think the highlight for me was strolling through the dark and creepy basement. And also, the palace kitchen, still equipped with old school machines, was pretty cool.
Visiting the Independence Palace is one of the top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City and it’s one of the most visited attractions in the city.
Address : 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Thành, Quận 1 Open hours : 7:30 am – 11 am and 1 pm – 4 pm daily. However, occasionally the Palace can be completely closed when there’s a large official event taking place. So make sure it’s open the day you plan to go. Entrance price : 30,000 VND per person How to get there : From Ben Thanh Market, you can walk there in about 10 minutes, it’s located right in the heart of Saigon in District 1.
6. Saigon Cathedral of Notre Dame
Welcome to Paris?
Probably not quite as grand as the Notre Dame de Paris , but nevertheless an important cathedral and landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, the Notre Dame Cathedral marks the center of the French colonial heritage in Saigon.
They still hold services on Sunday if you’re interested, but if you just go to visit on any other day, make sure you arrive either in the morning from 8 am – 11 am or in the afternoon from 3 pm – 6 pm.
When I went, I arrived right and noon lunchtime, and the gates were locked; So make sure you plan to visit during open hours so you can get inside.
The next day I returned to enter the cathedral.
The cathedral is beautiful, with two 40 meter high towers, and a statue of the Virgin Mary in the front lawn area. Make sure you go to the very front on the road-side, so you can get a great photo of Virgin Mary with the cathedral in the background.
Inside the cathedral you’ll see beautiful stained glass windows, the wooden pews, and classic plaid floor tiles.
There happened to be a wedding taking place when we visited, a sight I’m sure is quite common.
Address : Bến Nghé, tp. Hồ Chí Minh, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : 8 am – 11 am in the morning and 3 pm – 6 pm in the evening on weekdays only (on Sunday, there’s an official mass that begins at 9:30 am that you are free to attend) Entrance price : Free How to get there : From the Independence Palace, walk northeast through the park directly to the cathedral. It’s located on the northwestern side of Dong Khoi street, adjacent to the old post office.
7. Central Post Office
Right across the street from the Saigon’s Cathedral of Notre Dame, within the same city square, is yet another renowned landmark, the Central Post Office, that began construction back in 1886.
Again, just like quite a few other buildings in Saigon, it’s the French colonial architecture that really stands out.
But even more so here, one of the top reasons the post office is one of the top Saigon attractions is because it was designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, the man who also engineered the Eiffel Tower in Paris).
What I liked about the Central Post Office, was that not only has it become a top tourism attraction, but it also remains fully in use and functional.
If you’d like, you can walk into the post office, buy a postcard from Vietnam, stamp it, and send it home to your friends and family right then and there.
Also, I also really loved the floor tiling as well as the giant map murals painted on the walls.
Address : 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, tp. Hồ Chí Minh Open hours : 7 am – 7 pm on weekdays, 7 am – 6 pm on Saturday, 8 am – 6 pm on Sunday Entrance price : Free How to get there : Once you’re at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Central Post Office is right across the street.
8. War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum in Saigon is definitely not a fun attraction to visit.
But it is a place to remember the atrocious and horrible effects that come as a result of war.
Most of the inside of the War Remnants Museum is filled with photography, shown in exhibitions, about various events of the Vietnam War. You are free to walk around the various photo and journalist displays.
On the outside section of the War Remnants Museum is an equally sad life-sized model of a prison, where you’ll find replicas of prisoner rooms, stocks, and torturing devices for POW’s.
If you visit the War Remnants Museum and you’re with kids, there is a playground room that I noticed where many young kids went to hang out while their parents walked through the museum (as you can imagine, it may not a great place for kids to see).
Surrounding the museum, within the compound grounds are displays of previously used military weapons, tanks, and aircraft.
The War Remnants Museum is a worthwhile place to see in Saigon to learn, but again, be prepared for quite a heavy and saddening experience.
Address : 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : 7:30 am – 12 noon in the morning and 1:30 pm – 5 pm in the afternoon, daily Entrance price : 15,000 VND per person How to get there : The War Remnants Museum is located just northwest of the Independence Palace, you can walk from there in about 10 minutes.
9. Opera House
Considered to be one of the best representations of French colonial architecture in Saigon, the Opera House theater was built in 1897, and has been beautifully preserved.
If you are interested, the Opera House hosts A O Show , a performance of traditional Vietnamese dance using bamboo.
I didn’t go to the show, but if you are interested in live performances, I’m sure it would be pretty cool to see – especially since it takes place in a such a glorious building.
Address : 7 Công trường Lam Sơn, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : Make sure you check the official site for show times and schedules and you can also buy tickets online as well. Entrance price : Prices range from 504,000 VND – 1,176,000 VND for show tickets How to get there : The Opera House is located on the prestigious Dong Khoi street
10. Dong Khoi Street
Dong Khoi street and area of Saigon, sort of reminds me of Oxford Street , it’s an upscale area of Saigon, and along Dong Khoi street you’ll find high end boutiques and designer stores.
But along with upscale shopping, it’s just a nice place to walk around. Walking around Dong Khoi, I really felt like I was somewhere in between France and Vietnam, plus there’s a huge contrast of the old and new, modern and traditional.
Along Dong Khoi street there are a couple of modern shopping malls like Vincon , and plenty of international and speciality stores.
Also, many of the high end 5 star hotels, like the renowned Hotel Majestic Saigon are located in this area. If you interested in doing some luxury shopping in Ho Chi Minh City, this is an area you’ll want to visit.
Address : Dong Khoi street Open hours : Daytime, plenty of nightlife as well
11. Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Clustered together in the same park, is both the Saigon Zoo and the Botanical Gardens .
Instead of having to pay for both attractions, you just pay a single entrance fee and you can then walk around both.
The zoo, that is the animals part of the zoo, is not so great – the animals don’t look too happy, and the cages aren’t set up very well – it could definitely use a major renovation.
However, the Saigon Zoo does host a range of animals from tigers (that really looked like they wanted to escape) to elephants.
But the part I really liked:
The Saigon Botanical Gardens.
Sort of the entire zoo is a botanical garden, full of lush greenery and natural vegetation. But if you keep walking around, you’ll eventually come to the specific botanical garden section.
The gardens throughout the zoo and the wide paths surrounding by natural lush vegetation was a beautiful.
When I went, it looked like many Vietnamese had come to the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens just to hang out, relax and socialize with friends. It looked like many spent the day at the zoo, to use it more just like a peaceful garden park, like an escape from the noisy motorbike roads of Saigon.
As with me, you probably won’t be impressed with the animals or the conditions of the zoo, but the gardens are beautiful, and it’s a good place to walk around for some peace and nature within Saigon.
I think visiting the Saigon Zoo and the Botanical Gardens is one of the many great things to do in Ho Chi Minh city with kids, as it’s quiet, peaceful, with nice grassy areas, and you don’t have to worry about motorbikes!
There’s even restaurant to eat at if you get hungry while walking around, and a number of little refreshment stations.
Address : 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem Str., Ward Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City Open hours : 7 am – 7 pm daily Entrance price : 20,000 VND per person How to get there : It’s easiest to jump in a taxi, but my wife and I took the bus down Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street directly to the entrance of the museum. Get out of the bus before you cross the river.
12. FITO Museum (Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine)
I really had no idea what to expect on the day we went to the FITO Museum, also known as the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine .
But as soon as I paid the entrance fee, and entered the museum, I immediately felt welcomed (the staff were very friendly from the start), and the museum had a wonderful cozy, almost family run feel to it. After reading the pamphlet, I soon discovered that it’s one of the few privately operated museums in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine is housed in a five story home, built and renovated to resemble a traditional style Vietnamese home. The wooden carved decorations and details within the house were incredible.
Within the museum you’ll find a collection of over 3,000 Vietnamese medicinal tools, and a collection of manuscripts, manuals, and guides that document the variety of holistic herbs and natural remedies used in traditional Vietnamese medicine practice.
When you arrive, you’ll first be invited to watch a short fifteen minute film about the progression of ancient Vietnamese medicine, and then you’re free to browse the museum at your own pace, or with the help of a staff member.
I was not only impressed by the well thought out presentation of the museum, but also the kindness of the staff and the hospitality.
Also, there were a couple hands on things to try, like putting on a traditional Vietnamese medicine doctor outfits, and rolling a sharp stone to grind medicine.
Once you’re finished browsing through the floors of the museum, you can enjoy a complimentary cup of tea on the bottom floor in the small gift shop.
They served me a cup of tea, used specifically to reduce anxiety, stress, and to help one relax… it was pretty good, and I did feel pretty relaxed (and ready to eat afterwards). I ended up purchasing a couple bags of ginger green tea to bring home.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the FITO Museum, and I thought it was a very educational attraction.
Address : 41 Hoang Du Khuong Str., Ward 12, Distric 10, Ho Chi Minh City Open hours : 8:30 am – 5:30 pm daily Entrance price : 50,000 VND per person How to get there : Since it’s a private museum, it’s located all by itself in the middle of a neighborhood in District 10, so the best way to get there is to jump in a taxi.
13. San Art Laboratory – Gallery
There are numerous museums in Saigon, many of which I’ve covered in this list of top attractions, but there aren’t too many modern art galleries that promote the local artistic scene in the city.
Sàn means “platform” in Vietnamese, and the San Art laboratory is really a place where artists can learn and nurture their creativity surrounded by other artists.
The gallery is located within a home that’s converted into an artistic space.
On the bottom floor you’ll find a small library with a collection of contemporary art books and a communal table where you can hang out and connect with other artists.
Within the gallery portion, on the first and second floor of the space, there is a series of rotating exhibitions, so it’s best to check their website to see what’s currently on display.
The gallery is very small and intimate, but it’s also personal and creative.
San Art Laboratory is open to the public, but I would only recommend visiting if you really appreciate contemporary art and creativity, which if you are, I’m sure you’ll be able to connect with other creative artists when you’re there.
Also keep an eye out for special events and artist gatherings that they occasionally host.
Address : 48/7 Me Linh Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City Open hours : 10.30 am – 6.30 pm on Tuesday – Saturday, closed on Sunday and Monday Entrance price : Free, non-profit How to get there : The art gallery is located in a neighborhood right across the river from the Saigon Zoo. It’s easiest to take a taxi there, or you can take a bus to the main road and then walk into the neighborhood.
14. Turtle Lake at Night
If you’re looking for one of the top local things to do in Saigon at night, you have got to head over to either the Cathedral of Notre Dame or the roundabout of Turtle Lake after the sun goes down.
Located right within central Saigon, both locations are home to dozens of street food snack vendors that set up shop, and make snacks for the hundreds of young Vietnamese, both groups of friends and families, that come to hang out and socialize.
At the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the snack and tea vendors set out little canvas covers on the planters where you can take a seat and enjoy the social buzzing atmosphere with the lights of the cathedral in the background.
At Turtle Lake, within the roundabout is an old school park, with a central sculpture that looks like a dead tree in the middle surrounded by a maze of water and fountains, and an awkwardly placed flight of stairs.
The park itself is very unmaintained, not very pretty, and resembles an abandoned structure. But at night is when things change. Just like at Notre Dame, young people flock to Turtle Lake to hang out and mingle with friends, eat snacks, and enjoy life.
There are two main snacks that everyone who goes to hang out eats and you shouldn’t miss either:
- Banh trang tron – Banh trang are Vietnamese rice paper sheets (the same ones used for summer rolls), and banh trang tron is a snack salad made with strips of dry rice paper mixed with hot sauce, slivers of green mango, quail eggs, strips of dried squid, and all kinds of random goodies. It’s the latest and most popular craze snack in Vietnam.
- Banh trang nuong – Also known as Vietnamese pizza, banh trang nuong is also made with rice paper, which is grilled like a pizza crust over charcoal, topped with a quail egg, chili sauce, dry pork, green onions, among other things. I thought it was more like a Vietnamese taco, then a pizza.
For a cultural evening experience, visit both places anywhere from about 8 pm – 10 pm.
How to get there : Turtle Lake is located northwest of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, at the cross roads of Vo Van Tan and Pham Ngoc Thach
15. Ben Thanh Market
Like I mentioned at the top of this list of top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, I really liked Binh Tay Market, but there was no way I was going to leave out Ben Thanh Market either.
Even as touristy as it may be, it’s a buzzing market, full of history, shopping stalls galore, and being located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, it’s probably the most important central landmark of the city.
You’ll find just about everything ever created or produced in Vietnam somewhere within the market lanes of Ben Thanh.
When I was there, I saw a frenzy of both foreign tourists from around the world, as well as Vietnamese shoppers.
If you’re shopping for clothes, souvenirs, Vietnamese cookware, or dry foods like nuts or dried fruit, tea or coffee, you could easily spend a few hours getting lost in the tiny, stuffed lanes of the market. Just make sure you don’t knock anything over – they literally have things like glassware dangerously stacked close to walkways.
Additionally the surrounding streets of Ben Thanh Market are a major hub of transportation and a major business district, always full of action and energy.
In the evening, along the roads just outside Ben Thanh Market, they close down the roads to traffic and open them as a night market with a few restaurants and touristy shops.
This is one of the main night markets in Ho Chi Minh City, but I didn’t really care for it too much – it was a bit over hyped for me, but still a good place to walk around.
Address : Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : 6 am – 6 pm daily for the indoor market, and about 6 pm – Midnight daily for the night market Entrance price : Free How to get there : If you’re not already staying somewhere close in the area, it seems that all roads lead to Ben Thanh Market.
16. Phu My Hung and Starlight Bridge
Phu My Hung is an upscale development area in District 7 of Saigon, and while spending the day with Kyle (a local blogger and vlogger), we decided to swing by to see a different side of Saigon.
Although it’s only 6 km south of the central Ben Thanh Market (considered the downtown), the area has a completely different feel to it from other parts of the city.
It’s more quiet, there’s less traffic, there are malls and cafe’s, and there are wide spacious, uncluttered sidewalks; Walking through Phu My Hung almost feels like you’ve left Vietnam altogether and have taken a day trip to southern California.
Phu My Hung is filled with an abundance of pleasant sit down restaurants, both Vietnamese and international, with big breezy patios, your choice of just about every fast food chain, from Lotteria to Dominoe’s , and plenty of Korean restaurants as well.
If you go to Phu My Hung in the evening, you can enjoy the cooler temperatures, and it’s also when many local Vietnamese and expats are out and about, eating, socializing, and hanging out.
Along with restaurants, modern malls, and the shops that fill Phu My Hung, one of the main draws is the Starlight Bridge, a bridge that spans across the lake, with a waterfall cascading down, illuminated by flashing lights in a rainbow of colors.
Spending time with your loved one at Starlight Bridge is said to be one of the most romantic things to do in Saigon.
Address : Tôn Dật Tiên, Tân Phú, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : The entire Phu My Hung strip is nice to walk around after the sun goes down, but there’s also the major Crescent Mall shopping mall open from 10 am – 10 pm daily Entrance price : Free How to get there : Taxi is the best way to get there since you must leave the main central part of the city
17. Water Puppet Show
Although water puppetry originated in the north of Vietnam around the Halong Bay area, performances are also available at a number of locations throughout Saigon.
The art of Vietnamese water puppet performing (known in Vietnamese at múa rối nước) has been around since the 11th century, and most of the skits depict Vietnamese cultural scenes, countryside life, and folklore stories.
The puppets are made from wood, then they are lacquered to become waterproof, and then both painted and decorated, sometimes with paint, and other times with clothes or feathers.
One of the most famous and touristy places where you can see a Vietnamese water puppet show in Ho Chi Minh City is the Golden Dragon Water Puppet theater.
The show lasted for 50 minutes, and as the puppets danced and performed in the pool of water on the front stage, a traditional Vietnamese opera band played instruments, sang, and commentated the entire program.
I thought the water puppet performance at Golden Dragon was pretty good. Although the majority of the attendees were giant tour groups, the show was still entertaining. It was interesting to not only see the puppets, but something I enjoyed was listening to the traditional music and singing that was synchronized to the water puppet show.
Make sure to check the Golden Dragon Water Puppet website for up to date information about show times. I went in the morning to purchase my tickets for the evening show, but sometimes (as they informed me), they can sell out because of all the tour groups.
Address : 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Open hours : Official show times are 5 pm and 6:30 pm daily, and you can go to the ticket office to buy your ticket from 8:30 am – 11:30 am and from 1:30 pm – 7:30 pm Entrance price : 160,000 VND per person How to get there : The theater is located on the back side of Tao Dan Park on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street, and just a short walk from the Independence Palace.
18. Museum of Vietnamese History
There are dozens of museums in Saigon, but the Museum of Vietnamese History is one of the most important.
Inside you’ll find artifacts, including sculptures, pottery, and porcelain, showing the history of Vietnam, with artifacts dating all the way back from the bronze age of Vietnamese history at around 2000 BC.
Probably my favorite part of the History Museum was the collection of sculptures and stone reliefs from the temples of Angkor Wat.
Also don’t miss taking a peep at the well preserved mummy which was uncovered in District 5, right in the heart of Saigon. That was interesting to see as well.
There’s also a traditional Vietnamese water puppet performance at the museum, which you can pay extra to see. I didn’t wait around for the show, but if you don’t have time to go to the larger Golden Dragon water puppet show (or if you want to avoid it), this might be a good alternative.
The History Museum of Vietnam is located right next to the Saigon Zoo grounds, and it’s a very popular museum for local Vietnamese students to visit as well.
Address : Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : 8 am – 12 noon in the morning and 1:30 – 5 pm in the afternoon, Closed on the first Monday of every month Entrance price : 15,000 VND for entrance, 40,000 VND to take photos (I think you can get away with cell phone photos without paying, but if you want to take photos with a DSLR like I did, they’ll charge you). The water puppet show costs 35,000 VND How to get there : The Museum of Vietnamese History is located right next to the Saigon Zoo, so you can easily combine visiting both, along with lunch at the Lunch Lady .
19. Rooftop Bar
Saigon is a rapidly developing and expanding city, and sky-rise offices and condos are going up at near frightening rates.
Along with high-rise buildings, one of the recent trends in the city are rooftop bars and lounges.
The streets of Saigon are loud, crowded, and quite often on the chaotic side – and don’t get me wrong, the street life is amazing – but it can also be very nice to see it all from above, in a peaceful environment from a bird’s eye view, enjoying the city skyline and sunrise with a cool beverage in hand.
As of now, one of the most popular rooftop bar options in Saigon is Shri Restaurant and Lounge , which is not only a bar, but a full restaurant.
You can go either just for drinks or choose to have either lunch or dinner there. My wife and I went to Shri for a late lunch, and enjoyed the wonderful views of the city, the upscale environment, and the top notch service.
Another idea would be to go to a rooftop bar for sunset and enjoy happy hour, or an activity to do at night.
Other well known spots to enjoy a drink with a view include the Hotel Continental and Hotel Majestic , but I’m sure there will be more and more rooftop bars in the future as more and more sky scrapers sprout up in Saigon.
It’s amazing that you can be eating street food in an alley one minute, and seeing it all from above the next.
Address : Shri, 72 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, 6, 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam Open hours : For Shri, 10 am – 12 midnight from Monday – Saturday and 4:30 pm – 12 midnight on Sundays and public holidays. Also, don’t miss their happy hour from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm daily. Entrance price : Rooftop bars in Saigon can be a bit on the pricey side, but it’s worth it on a special occasion for the atmosphere and view. Lunch for my wife and I cost a rather pricey 850,000 VND. How to get there : Shri Restaurant and Lounge is located just up the road from Independence Palace, and very close to Turtle Lake
20. Fine Arts Museum
Like many of the museums in Ho Chi Minh City, one of the best parts of visiting is to admire the structure its housed in.
Possibly one of the most elegant and well preserved pieces of architecture in the entire city (at least what I thought) is the Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, located just opposite the giant roundabout from Ben Thanh Market.
Inside the museum, you’ll discover a great collection of artwork, including many paintings, sculptures, and lacquerware, that span the history of art in Vietnam.
One of my favorite exhibitions at the Fine Arts Museum was the collection of sandstone sculptures and ceramics from the Khmer site of Óc Eo , during the Funan Kingdom .
You could easily spend an hour or two browsing through the art exhibitions at this fantastic museum. If you get tired out, there is a beautiful courtyard in the middle of the building where you can take a rest on a bench and just enjoy the peaceful quietness of the museum.
At first I wasn’t extremely interested in visiting as I was sort of museumed-out , but I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. I thought the Fine Arts Museum was a hidden gem, and even if you just have 1 or 3 days in Saigon, I would recommend it as one of the top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
Address : 97 Phó Đức Chính, Nguyễn Thái Bình Open hours : 9 am – 5 pm from Tuesday – Sunday (closed Monday) Entrance price : 10,000 VND per person How to get there : The museum is located right across the roundabout (sort of to the south) of Ben Thanh Market.
21. Jade Emperor Pagoda
Dedicated to the Jade Emperor , one of the highest powers and deities in Taoism, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most important Taoist temples in Saigon.
As soon as you set foot into the compound, the loudness of the road traffic outside drifts away, and you can immediately feel a sense of calm throughout the temple.
The front courtyard is shaded by draping banyan trees, with a spattering of pigeons, and a cloud of incense smoke that burns both inside and outside the temple and sets the mood by making the entire area hazy.
Inside the temple, there are two main sections, the back section is where the statue of the Jade Emperor sits, surrounded by various other deities and statues.
The Jade Emperor Pagoda is full of symbolism and details, which I don’t even begin to understand or even probably notice, but nevertheless, it was an intriguing temple to visit.
Address : 73 Mai Thị Lựu, Đa Kao Open hours : 7 am – 6 pm daily Entrance price : Free How to get there : The Jade Emperor Pagoda is located just off Dien Bien Phu highway, directly north of Ben Thanh and near the river. It’s best to catch a taxi there.
22. Local Wet Market
As much as visiting both Ben Thanh and Binh Thay Markets are wonderful things to do when you’re in Saigon, a trip to the city would not be complete without getting lost in one of the countless fresh wet food markets scattered throughout the city.
While the other two markets mentioned above are more wholesale goods markets, right now I want to talk about neighborhood alley markets. It’s kind of like going to the supermarket in Saigon.
Literally, sometimes I was just wandering around Saigon, walking around aimlessly, and the next thing I knew, down a side alley, I would find myself in the midst of a wonderful bustling local neighborhood market – I don’t know if I’ve been to another city with as many fresh markets as Saigon.
The reason I love walking through markets in Saigon (or anywhere else) so much, is because it offers a REAL glimpse into the local life and culture of the destination .
People sell and shop, hang out, sleep, eat and drink, and do just about everything you can possibly think of at markets in Vietnam.
On top of that, I found that many of the people in the markets throughout Saigon that I visited were extremely friendly. Even as I walked by taking photos and videos, many people smiled and laughed and said hello to me and even invited me to stop for something to eat.
Additionally, exploring a wet market in Saigon, you’ll see a near mind-blowing quantity and array of different vegetables, herbs, meats, and ingredients, all the raw things that makes Vietnamese food so good.
So along with visiting the two main largest well known markets I encourage you to go off the main paths, into the alleys of Saigon, and deep into some of the local wet markets to explore.
For me, learning about the local life by exploring alley markets was one of my favorite things to do in Saigon.
23. Vietnamese Street Food
You and I probably agree:
Food and travel goes extremely well together. In fact, food is the main reason I travel in the first place (museums and everything else are all secondary to food)!
Saigon is an overwhelming paradise for food lovers, both because of the delicious flavors and combinations of Vietnamese food, and for the abundance, quantity, and variety of food available everywhere you look.
Vietnam is a huge country that spans from the Mekong Delta in the south to the highlands of the north bordering China, and a coast line of 3,444 kilometers ( source ).
Since Saigon is the biggest city in Vietnam, people have moved to the city from around the country and the benefit for the food scene is that you can find nearly everything from around Vietnam somewhere in Saigon.
But let’s talk about Vietnamese street food.
Street food is what I would consider a major part of Vietnamese culture.
Along with being very affordable, eating street food is a way to socialize with friends, and enjoy the atmosphere of the city. You’ll find street food stalls set up in every neighborhood, along every street, and on just about every corner of Saigon.
Yes, hot bowls of pho and banh mi sandwiches are widespread and remain very popular, but you’ll also discover dozens of other delicious Vietnamese dishes like bun rieu (crab noodles), com tam suon (pork chop over rice), banh khot (savory griddle cakes), and one of my personal favorite Vietnamese foods, bo la lot ( minced beef wrapped in wild betel leaves and grilled).
If you go out wandering around Saigon, you’ll have no trouble finding unbelievably delicious food to try. Just pull up a tiny plastic stool at a plastic table, and try whatever you see available.
You may not always know what you’re eating, but you’ll have an incredible time tasting, and the experiences you’ll have as a result of being adventurous and samplings different foods is something you’ll never forget.
If you love food, be sure to check out my list of the best 25 dishes to eat in Saigon .
Watch the full video of these things to do:
If you have a few minutes, press play below to watching the full video, that covers all 23 of these places:
If you can’t see the video, you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0crXGYLYlg
Saigon (known officially as Ho Chi Minh City, though more commonly referred to as Saigon) is Vietnam’s most lively and action packed city, growing and developing at a rapid rate.
As soon as you arrive in the city you’ll be surrounded by a sea of motorbike traffic, delicious street food everywhere you look, and a host of attractions that will keep you busy and entertained.
I want to say a big thank you for reading through this list of top 23 things to do in Saigon and I hope it gives you great ideas and helps you plan your trip.
Now it’s your turn to navigate your way through the bustling traffic, stop at a museum or market, grab a banh mi and slurp down a bowl of hot noodles on the sidewalk, and explore the many possibilities waiting for you in Saigon!
Free Download: Since this post is so long, I made it into an eBook in PDF format, and you can download it for FREE (the eBook is easier to read and even print).
Xoi Man: Kind of Like Banh Mi, Except Over Sticky Rice
Bun Moc: Delicious Noodles Down an Alley in Saigon
Beef Pho in Saigon: Try It at Pho Phuong 25
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4 weeks ago
I like the efforts you have put in this, regards for all the great content.
6 months ago
Thanks for the great information. I’ve never been to Vietnam. All ahead of me.
7 months ago
Not related to the video, but if you speak to a Vietnamese-American, make sure you refer to Ho-Chi-Minh as Saigon. Saigon is the original city name before the communist took over the country and renamed the city to Ho-Chi-Minh.
9 months ago
Great informative content! LOVED it
Love Com Tam and Bun Cha Gio. Man. every time I’m at Saigon, thats always my favorite
2 years ago
I love Com Tam (Broken Rice) & Banh Khot. I can eat them every day. hihi
Same, it’s SO good.
It is amazing ! Thanks for your shanring!
4 years ago
5 years ago
Really interesting and informative, I’ve only been to Hanoi and I’m planning to visit Vietnam again, I was thinking of doing Hanoi again, but now I’m really considering going to Ho Chi Minh, I’m interested in the street food.
I agree. The street food there is amazing
Mark, you made our Saigon trip much easier 🙂 as we have 2 day in this city, articlw looks like perfect guide. thank you
Wow just wow. Thank you very much, we’re just using part of your nice guidelines to discover the city and it is super helpful. Thank you so much for your effort:)
I try download to save the pdf file unable. Can you solve this issue.
Hi! How many days did u stay in Ho Chi Minh? Is 2 days and 1 night possible to enjoy the beauty of Ho Chi Minh? Thanks!
UBER is not working in Ho Chi Minh!!!!!!!!!
Use grab or one of the Vietnamese ones uber left the market here
For me, the most interesting place in Ho Chi Minh City is the Museum of War Remnants. The photos are drastic but it’s worth seeing them
That is so a good information guide there.
Too bad that I found your guidelines only on my last night in Ho Chi Minh City. We visited quite many places from your list but still skipped few. But still enjoyed our stay! Greetings from Estonia
Big thanks for this. Very informative and this would be a great help for us since my family will visit this Dec 2018. Kudos to you!!!
great guide !! super interesting facts and advices much better than Trip Advisor, last time i went there i really enjoy a dinner cruise onboard the bonsai legacy it was nice to discover saigon by night from the saigon river.
Very informative. I have been to Ho Chi Minh but has visited only a few places mentioned here.
A Really informative and detailed review of Ho Chi Minh City, which will be extremely helpful when my wife and I visit there in February 2019. Also downloaded the information, which will be a big help.
Ho Chi Minh is really an awesome place to see that I ever want to visit, I just love this place. This place is also known as Saigon. There are many places of attraction like historical sites, include reunification palace, war remmants museum, city hall museum, Ho Chi Minh museum. Also there are some religious sites such as Central mosque, Notre Dame Cathedral, thein Hau Pagoda, Quan Am Pagoda, Phung Son Tu Pagoda. Including architectural attractions like Saigon opera house, The Bitexco Financial Tower, Saigon Sykdeck. So you would definitely enjoy these places and you can get a memorable experience of Vietnam tours. I have seen these places which were a very good experience for me.
Very nicely explained. I am going to visit shortly.
6 years ago
I am soon going to be in Saigon and this was incredibly helpful! This brings me to a question, which museum was your favorite one? I am definitely planning on seeing a water puppet show at the museum, it’s great that they are offering that (provided that enough people show up!). All those markets sound amazing, I can’t wait to visit!
I am a Saigonese. Your article is very helpful to Vietnamese students. Welcome here!
I just left Saigon and to be honest, I didn’t care for it that much. The street food is amazing if you get out of the tourist areas. I’m so glad you didn’t mention the tunnels as a place to visit. For one, all the tunnels you see are not from the war time and are built for tourists, not for actual history. Second, our tour guide was so proud that the traps injured “Americans” and that the north was doing right by killing hundreds of thousands of southern vietnamese ciivilians for letting Americans invade vietnam. He obviously wasn’t told history of what happened, probably because of the oppressive communists government. Anyway, food was amazing, but everything else was forgettable, especially the bad drivers, which I thought Bangkok was bad…not even comparable.
Its nice to know that you were able to go to a lot of places in Saigon! I love how detailed and useful it is specially to those will go there for the first time.
Beautiful article. I was going thru TripAdvisor at first but that’s all bullshit This article is too good Thanks
as a Vietnamese living in Saigon, i read all your article, honestly there are still some places i havent visited yet but your all your recommendation is correct, your mention about safety is right, who know what will happen. i just want to add another thing : here we prefer Grab than Uber, it is cheaper and larger amount of Graber, you can find Grab bike and Grab car , it is just half cheaper than traditional taxi. and within 100 km from saigon, there are many places more to visit like Cu Chi Tunel, Vung Tau City, Rung Sac ( Sac forest National park )… I hope every people have a good trip in Vietnam.
We enjoyed Saigon as well, although having traveled Vietnam for 5 weeks, I disagree about how dangerous you portray this city.. Everyone is walking around with cell phones, and while you have to keep a level head on your shoulders and not get into a situation you will regret, it doesn’t happen that often, mostly late at night.. The first time I ever traveled I read blogs like these and when I traveled I kept everything inside hidden pockets etc, always scared to even show my wallet.. In reality, It’s nothing like what you and other bloggers paint pictures of.. You would think you were in a war torn country where no tourists even go! Relax a bit, don’t worry yourself to death and you will have a great time.. These places aren’t that bad at all…
Thanks for the list and supplemental information. Much appreciated
How far is the cu chi tunnels from this area?
Hello, Thank you very much for this magnificent guide.
We like to get around by bus and figured out that there is an awesome app for planning routes. It works completely offline. It is called “BusMap” by Le Yen Thanh. It works like Uber and suggest you the possible routes.
Tahiti Le Blog
I love this city where I lived for one year, 10 years ago. I remember that the people at the zoo preferred to photograph my son (blond with blue eyes) than the annimals!
Great post, Mark – used it to get around the city today and had a great time. Agree with you the tiles at the post office are to die for! Love this city – there’s so much to enjoy even the chaotic traffic can be fun to watch!!
Hi Mark, I’ve been watching your videos for a year now. It was really helpful with the Thailand videos. We were in thailand for the month of May 2017, touring BKK, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui. I’ve been sharing your videos with friends and whoever would like to listen to my info about this American son of missionary/Christian who lives and married in Thailand. I’m so proud of your work like a proud mom. My daughter is a Social Media Specialist. We visited Gaggan in BKK and other food markets. Next time we visit Thailand again I will surely connect with you. For now, I am planning a trip Vietnam somewhere in Nov. 2017. Possibly will stay in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada for now. We have great weather here in Vancouver in the summer. We have been vacationing in Europe for the past few yrs. but now Asia is my new destination, esp. Vietnam. Your work is awesome, as a Christian myself , may God richly bless you and your family , Ying and Micah. Sincerely, Ms. Jofi Singh
its look like amazing and the rainbow sandstone using in buildings and temples thank you sharing post
Hello Mark! This is so far the best blog I’ve found on Saigon. Extremely useful and it gave me all that I was searching for. Will be going to Saigon for 3 days in April, energized now! You rock !
7 years ago
Great guide but i’m sorry to say you overpaid for everything. my motorbike was 30$ for a month and a taxi on grab normallt costs for a 5 minute ride 10,000 dong. 30 minute ride is 30,000 dong. Very cheap
Hey Mark! This is so far the best blog I’ve found on Saigon. Very informative and it gave me everything I was looking for. Will be visiting Saigon for 3 days in April, excited now! Thanks a lot !
Going to HCM in may for 12 days, interested for tips to amuse our selfs
Thanks Larry, hope you have an amazing trip.
Hi Mark, loved the YouTube video coverage of your HCM trip. Just a note on FITO: Admission tickets are 120,000 dong as of now (Feb 2017).
Hi Mark. Thanks so much for sharing your video of what to do in HCMC. We are heading to Vietnam in April however really only have 2 days to explore in HCMC. The sights you suggest to visit – are they in order of preference and are they close by to each other so that you can get yourself there and then walk around to explore?
Hi, if you are only 2 days in Saigon, I recommend you a tour called URBAN TALES which takes place in Cholon (Saigon’s Chinatown) which is for me one of the most interesting districts of Ho Chi Minh City to visit, as still very typical. This tour is an investigation game and a treasure hunt at the same time and it really lakes you visit Cholon in a fun and interactive way. While gathering clues and solving a murder, you walk through hidden alleyways, visit pagodas, meet traditional pharmacists…. It’s great fun and makes you look at some of the sights in much more detail than you might otherwise have done. Go for it,
Perfect item. It’s a different culture, I feel like knowing.
What an excellent article! very informative indeed.. Thank you my friend.
Hi Mark, really I’m thankful for your pretty extensive guide over here for I’m like preparing an itinerary for my family, like so last minute. If it wasn’t for your concise and straight to the point explanation, I’ll be going bonkers by now. I included many of the places you recommend above, will be going to Cu Chi tunnels as well. Hope all goes well.
Do please continue with what you’re doing, it helps clueless first timer like me a lot. Appreciate heaps.
Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017 New Year to you, God Bless.
Oh thank you for this! So informative and helpful; will be reading and rereading this until I head to Saigon in March!
Watched and read your Saigon info. Very informative and probably the only place we didn’t manage to get to was District 7 and the Starlight Bridge. All of you comments/reviews are spot on. Pho and Banh Mi were outstanding!!! We did a whole tour of the country and loved every minute of it! Would re-visit in a heartbeat.
Hi Dave, great to hear from you and glad you had such a good trip to Saigon. So much amazing food!
Hi!, Great reviews and photos u have here! one thing i wanna ask, what camera u used when go here? did u recommend bringing a DSLR or just action camera (GoPro)? Thanks a lot!
Hi Zul, thank you very much. It all depends what you want to do. I much prefer a dslr because you can take good photos and good videos. For this post I was using a Canon 70d. But my current gear is listed on this page: https://migrationology.com/travel-resources/
Amazing blog! Thanks for sharing with us…!
Hi Mark. Thanks for your great post. I want to contribute one of the important tips when traveling to Saigon is having a local friends. They may help us a lot cuz they know the price, places, the way and many things else.
Thank you, This video is detailed and very informative. Will be in Saigon in two weeks i will definitely go to the places you’ve shown here.
Great to hear that, hope you have an amazing trip.
Very detailed and informative.. Will surely use this as a reference in my travel this last week of October
Hey man, im going to Saigon next week and this article is really helpful and wonder ful especially about taxi thing. Thank you very much. May God always with your family.
Love from Malaysia.
Wow, great effort to give so much information, it really helped me so much to decide the places to visit.If not I would have missed some beautiful places.thanks a ton.
I read that there is a Indian brave king Shivaji Maharaj’s statue somewhere in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh city?) – i am not sure. I couldn’t find authentic news about this nor the statue of Shivaji as claimed in this news report, nor any news about that President who praised Shivaji’s Guerilla war tactics adopted by by Vietnam in defeating the US army. https://www.quora.com/Why-there-is-a-statue-of-Chatrapati-Shivaji-in-Vietnam
Appreciate if you could please share any info you may have on this? Thanks
Good info! I bought my tix to the water puppet show after reading your article.
was already reading through the post in the middle and was wishing I could dwnload this post or something and just at the bottom i saw the gracious ‘downloadable and free’ words. thank you so much really 🙁 you helped a soul
continue the honest reviews! your authenticity and bluntness is def just right. thanks again!
I’ve lived in Sai Gon for 33 years but I haven’t discovered carefully 23 places you wrote yet! I admire you enormously. I sure that I will visit your website if I have a chance to travel abroad. Thanks a lot. I wish you would have wonderful trips all over the world
Really helpful! ????
Mark, your post is exellent. Could I copy to my web site ? Thanks in advance.
This is by far , beside the top 25 Vietnamese food – are the best guides to Saigon I ever read , thanks very much !
Hi, I love to explore local market. Could you tell how I can get to kind of Saigon local market like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjilx-jlwyg ?
Enjoyed reading your blog. We’re from Calgary, AB are planning a trip next year to Ho Chi Min City. This is really helpful. Thanks!
Hi Nan, good to hear from you. Hope you have an amazing upcoming trip to Vietnam next year.
One correction.. The place you had your bbq snail is 237-239, not as stated 327-329 🙂
Thanks for the correction Alex.
Very useful tips. Tq so much Mark. By the way I am on holiday in Ho Chi Minh City right now
Hi Kathy, glad to hear this guide is helpful. Have a fun trip!
8 years ago
This is a great list. Thanks for putting it up. Really helped me in planning my upcoming visit to the city.
I had your video and the ebook when i visited the Saigon in march 2016. You should mention the Saigon beer too.. I was surprised it was cheaper than cold drinks in some places. Your articles helped me when i visited Malaysia too. Keep the good work 🙂
Thank you Vikas, good to hear that. Glad you enjoyed your visit!
Just wanted to say this is a great article, really informative and helpful for visitors to HCMC
Thanks Mark. My family and I will try out some of your good discription! We are with 2 kids at 8 + 10 years travelling round in Asia ☺
Hi Peter, great to hear that, hope you and your family have a great trip!
Thinking of going to HCMC this Aug. with my best friends from school and your site helped me planning my trip there. We ll be coming from BKK. It seems lots of ppl there can speak English. I ve been in nyc for almost a decade. This ll be the first trip we are taking together after a school trip almost 20 yrs ago. Btw, I m only 31 and quite a fan of your work. Keep up the good work!
Great and useful article. Helps me a lot in plan for my trip. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Mark for taking the time to record and write such an informative article. I’ve just booked a trip to Saigon for next week and am looking for things to do there when I came across your page. This infor is timeless and I’m sure I’ll benefit alot fom it. Travelling March 31st, 2016,,,,,,yeah!! Do you have anything on Pueto Rico?
Hi Suan, you’re welcome, glad it’s helpful. Hope you have an amazing upcoming trip. I haven’t been to Puerto Rico, but I’d love to visit in the future.
When you will visit the Cambodia?
Thank you Sophy
Hey Sophy, I have been a couple times, but it’s been a while, I’d love to visit again soon.
Quý vị ơi ????! Nói về Việt Nam mà phần comment không thấy chữ tiếng Việt nào hết, cho nên Nhan Tran đây nghe hương vị que hương mà sao vẫn thấy hơi lạ lạ mà ko biết cái gì.
I have read many articles about Saigon from different travelers and backpackers. Even the Pro ones. I have to say this one is really helpful and detailed. As a Vietnamese, I really hope everyone who comes to my country can find something interesting and have good memories here. Great job, Mark! And thank you for writing about the city.
We really enjoyed this video. You provided so much info that we can use in Saigon. I will be ordering some of your t-shirts. I will be viewing more of your videos.
Hi Mark! We are heading to Vietnam in March and this article is brilliant! Tks for all the great info! Cheers,
The Saigon bus system is fully loaded into Google Maps, and now that I’m living here (and deathly afraid of riding motorbikes) I use Google Maps to tell me how to get around by bus, and it hasn’t let me down yet. Much easier than studying a bus map. Just enter your destination and click the Transit option and you’re good to go. But the buses stop running by about 21:00, so after that it’s walking or a taxi for me.
Hey Jim, thanks for sharing. Glad the buses are working out so well. I took them quite a few times during my visit, and always went smoothly.
Hi Mark, you should try going to Phan Thiet in Vietnam, it is really a very nice place
Thank you Minh, I would love to go on my next visit to Vietnam.
Just follow up your blog for a long time. Thank you for your determination on giving us such great info. From your recommendation, I had a memorable trip to Ho Chi Minh and this is my itinerary for 4 days in that city, it’s a budget plan. Once, thanks for your guidance to make our trips much easier.
My family and I came back from Saigon last month November 2015. You are certainly right when you say that the best way to explore is walking. The alley streets had an abundance of culture living that you can actually witness. There are chickens and dogs roaming as motorbikes maneuver around. Street vendors looking on their smartphones. Locals drinking coffee on plastic stools. It’s different dimension that I won’t get any where else. I’m curious to visit the modern Saigon that you touched upon. I’m an avid runner and I was excited to learn there is a race called “Conquer the Phu My Bridge”. This would be my first international race. Thanks for your insights. Will keep it in mind for my future Vietnam adventures.
Hey Phuong, great to hear from you and glad you had such a fun trip to Saigon. That race sounds fantastic!
In Saigon now and I’m so impressed! This is such a thorough overview of the city as well. Loving it here and will use some of your suggestions, thank you!
P.S. Loved the bit about the motorcycle taxis – they really do just kind of lounge around all day, it’s quite funny.
Hey Gloria, thank you very much for reading, really appreciate it. Glad you’re enjoying Saigon!
Zobera rahman linu
Thanks a lot for sharing us a valuable tips.I am planning to go vietnam 21 December 2015. I love to travel and I am a food lover. I am so happy and enjoying to read this. It will help me to travol there. Thank you so much once again for your tips.
I am planning to go vietnam 21 December 2015. I love to travel and I am a food lover. I am so happy to learn all those things which will help me travol there. Thank you so much once again.
This is such a great post thank you! I’ve just planned my next few days in HCMC!
Your blog is very informative. I am going there with my mum and sis two weeks from now. Thank you and keep up the good work. 🙂
Hey Melissa, glad this is helpful. Hope you have an amazing upcoming trip.
Hey! Just wanted to say thank you for your tips on what to eat at Notre Dame and by Turtle Lake. It was delicious and the locals were super friendly inviting my boyfriend and me into their own atmosphere. I’d also like to recommend Chill Skybar. It had an amazing view and the staff made you feel like a celebrity (and slightly underdressed, they all looked amazing). Just make sure to go there when it’s dark though, the city lights make it so romantic and absolutely magical! Anyway, really enjoyed reading about all your tips! Hope to see more of them coming on any possible destination. Wishing you and your wife good travels! Tanya
Hey Tanya, thank you very much for sharing, and glad you really enjoyed the Turtle Lake area. Thank you also for the recommendation, sounds great. Hope you have safe travels as well!
Loved your blog post! So informative! Also, great pictures! 🙂
I’ll be visiting Hi Chih Minh in December, and it’s gonna be my 3rd visit to Vietnam! Your article really got me excited to go, thanks! 🙂
Thank you Mark for the travel guide, I’m going to Saigon next week on saturday and this will be very helpful. Downloading the pdf now so I can use it even when i don’ t have internet connection. I haven’t book any place to stay, I plan to stay in Pam ngu lao street. If I go there without booking a hotel do you think I still can get a room? Or is it usually full? Thanks
Hi Api, good to hear from you, glad this guide is helpful. Yah, I think there should be plenty of options to find a place to stay if you just show up and look around. Enjoy your trip!
Mark you have the all time greatest travel advice really have helped me out in my travels!
Great to hear that Dean, glad it’s helpful.
Very USEFUL information. BRILLIANT!
Thank you Mimah, glad you found it useful.
Excellent informations. You know more than many saigonese!!!
Thank you Nuong
Wow, thanks for writing this. My friends and I are planning to visit Ho Chi Minh City in December and we have no idea where or what to do when we get there. Your article is a big help and will take your advises (especially to take precautions with street thieves :P)
I admired you, I was in Vietnam … thank you
Hi Mark, I’m from Vietnam and I’m living in Ho Chi Minh City. Thank you very much for the extremely helpful infomation about my lovely city that you gave all your readers. I’ve been following your blog for a while and totally love all your videos as well as articles. There is just one thing I don’t feel good about your and your wife trip to Ho Chi Minh City : I should have known you sooner so I could suggest where you should go and even should take you two there when you visited my city. I wish I could even do more than that, like offer good hotel rooms and good meals like what I had watched in your trip to Malaysia Langkawi and Manila. I just want to make sure you would experience as much as you can even though your articles are pretty clear and your food blogs are excellent. I will just keep watching and supporting you and Ying and hope one day my ideas could come true. Best wishes.
Hi Christine, you’re awesome, thank you very much! Next time we come to Ho Chi Minh City we will let you know. It would be great to meet you and eat with you! What is your one of your favorite foods to eat in Ho Chi Minh City? Thank you again!
Hey mark I like you blog. I watch you travel around the world eating those food makes my mouth full of water. Now I’m vegan. live in New York. I’m from Thailand every time you eat Thai food I can feel what it test like by watching you eat. I am following you where ever you go. Keep up with good work.
Hey Paul, good to hear from you, thank you very much for the comment. Do you get to come back to Thailand often?
Thanks for the reply. I haven’t been back to Thailand about 14 years now busy with work. I work on the computer all day long. When I got a break always check your blog I saw some Thai dishes I m not familiar with I just enjoy watching you enjoy eating food I also enjoy seeing different culture different food its amazing. What amazed me is that you can eat and not gain weight. Keep up with good work talk to you soon.
Thank you Paul!
I think you should also visit outside of Saigon to have an overview.
Hi Nihan, yes I would love to. Didn’t have time this visit, but I hope to in the future.
I’ve read dozens of your articles and this is my fav so far. Man you worked like crazy during this trip. Excellent stories and awesome professional photography. If I’m ever in Vietnam at the same time as you are, I’d be stoked to camera crew with you for an afternoon. Cheers Mark.
Really appreciate it Mal, thank you!
You are right Mark. These are almost attractive destinations you can see in Sai Gon (China Town also). Your post is very useful for us to sure that we will not miss any must see places and things.
Thank you so much for this, Mark — it’s a concise, well-written guide to Saigon, complete with details that are almost always missing from mainstream guide books. I appreciate your time and effort and can feel the passion you have for your adventures, eating and otherwise. I have only recently become aware that your experiences and blogging extend way beyond Thailand —
PS – As a vegetarian, it can sometimes be difficult in Vietnam; I appreciate your comments whenever you find veg options.
Love your post. Very well thought out and written. I have visited Cambodia and Thialand and would very much like to visit Vietnam. Coming soon hopefully…
Thank you very much Jeffery, really appreciate it. Hope you can visit Vietnam soon.
Love everything you do Mark!
You really need to consider offering a VIP food tour with you and your wife someday 🙂 Maybe once a year for your biggest fans who are just as passionate about food as you are! My Vietnamese wife and I will go in a heartbeat, who cares about the cost haha! Your energy and passion for food is contagious 🙂
Talk to you soon buddy!
Hey Trystan, thank you very much, really appreciate your support. I’ll think about some tours, that would be cool, and I’d love to meet great people like you. Are you living in Vietnam now?
Just wanted to stop by and say the site is great. I love your post.I’m currently running a similar travel site based in Los Angeles: http://www.visitla4less.com
Keep up the good work!
Thanks for sharing Jay, keep it up.
Great article thanks for sharing your tips with us 🙂
Thanks for reading Izy
Very informative as usual. Always love reading your blog or videos(although not as much as before, really busy with work and whatnot.) Hope to read a blog about Singapore or Taiwan, perhaps parts of China. I was just there this past May.
Thank you for reading Joy, glad you enjoyed it. Sounds good, I have some posts coming soon from Singapore, and I’d love to visit Taiwan in the future. Did you visit all three of those places?
Great post, love your videos and your guide will come in very handy when i visit in a few months! I can’t wait! keep up the amazing post and videos
Thank you Michael, good to hear you’ll be visiting soon!
Hi Mark! Thanks for another very useful video – I have been watching your videos for some time but hadn’t got around to commenting. I am planning a trip to Vietnam (via Bangkok!) for March 2016 (my first time in SE Asia!!) so I can’t wait to try out these suggestions. I’m especially looking forward to digging into the delicious looking street food, both in Vietnam and Bangkok 🙂 When ordering in Ho Chi Minh City can you get by in English or do you need to know some Vietnamese? I am worried I won’t know what I’m ordering!
Hey James, thank you for the comment, glad you’re planning to visit SE Asia next year. As for ordering, not many people speak English, but one of the nice things is that Vietnamese is Romanized, so you can recognize the signs for different foods. And then once you see something you want to try, you can just kind of mention you want one plate or bowl of it by holding up a finger and smiling. This worked well for me! If you have time to learn a few phrases that’s always helpful and beneficial, but you can still get without. Many people in Saigon are extremely friendly.
Thank you. I have been to Vietnam before and will go again. I have seen a lot of the places you talk about but not all. I look forward to seeing more. I have found no matter how long I stay in Vietnam I can never see every thing there is always more to see and more food to try. Again thank you.
Hey Steve, glad you’ve been to Saigon as well. I fully agree, with you, I feel the same!
Great articles. I appreciate your information concerning safety. I feel like this is more true than you hear about. I know you are limited to what you can offer in this subject. How could I find out more information on safety and medical availability and standards in different countries. Thanks and keep up the good work
Hi Michael, you’re welcome, thank you for reading. Perhaps you could check out Travelfish ( http://www.travelfish.org/ ) for more info regarding medical and safety, and also do some browsing or asking on forums, and also there’s some good info on the Lonely Planet website. All the best!
Thank you for a great video. Makes me want to visit Saigon!
Thank you for watching Lisa.
What is the tall architectural masterpiece that is standing next to the Rolex building in your first photo?
I always read your posts and wonder at the stories you have to tell people, all because you decided to LIVE your life instead of letting it pass you by, and to see the world not as it’s told to you but on your own terms.
Hi Luke, thank you very much, really appreciate it. That building is the Bitexco Financial Tower, the tallest building in Saigon!
Very interesting Mark and nice pictures! I thought this place was completely run down but it looks actually quite okay on the pics.
However, the safety issues mentioned would be a big concern. I’m used to Bangkok and Barcelona – places where crime is present – , but Saigon seems to be on another level.
Hey KE, thanks for reading. Overall though, I think the safety issues should not take away from visiting. Nearly everyone I met was extremely kind and helpful, and I had no problems throughout my stay. But it’s just important, like in any busy city, to be aware.
Nancy Lois Reyes
Wonderful guide book. Will use it for our Saigon trip in December.
Mark that was a very good guide you made. I will download it and make it my official guide to Saigon. Good timing as I have been researching for our December trip with family. Good job!
Hey Nancy, great to hear that, thank you for getting it. Hope you can plan a trip to Vietnam in December!
Love to read this. You missed to mention the first and original rooftop bar, Saigon Saigon Bar at the Caravelle Hotel. It’s also historical being the place where the news people who coveraged the Vietnam War stayed.
Thanks a lot Mark
Hey Noel, ok great, thanks for sharing that!
A great bar and some good bands at night. The prices for drinks is also ok. If you like you can just go up and take pictures at no cost.
Liem @ Holiday Bays
Hi Mark! I live near Saigon. Are you still around Vietnam? Great post mate, some places you shared I haven’t even been there! 🙂
Hey Liem, great to hear that you’re living near Saigon. No, I’m not there anymore. Are you from Vietnam?
Yes I am, but I’m moving to Australia soon. Love your blog!
Thank you so much for the useful info. Your website really gives me helpful insights as I will be travelling to Vietnam with my husband and 2 young children (ages 5 and 2) this February. There is one thing I would like to ask you. Besides taking recommended immunizations the CDC recommended, did your family do anything extra to prevent traveler’s diarrhea, and other sickness? Thank you.
Hi Lynn, glad this is useful, and that you’ll be going to Vietnam next year. I didn’t take anything extra than the normal vaccinations when I was in Vietnam, and I didn’t have any problems, but you may want to bring along something like imodium just in case. For other sickness, there are plenty of pharmacies there as well. How long will you be in Vietnam? Will you be in Saigon, or traveling to other parts of the country?
Hi Mark! Thank you for replying.
We will be visiting my in-laws who live in Da Nang for two weeks, and then we will head to Saigon for the 3rd week. I was actually born in the South, near Vinh Long. Have you ever got a chance visit there? It was a nice place, at least in my memory :). This will be my first time (in 25 years) celebrating the lunar New Year (Tet) in Vietnam. I am very excited, but at the same time, I’m worried that we will be sick, especially my young children. I had a bad case of traveler’s diarrhea/(food poisoning?) six years ago when I was there, despite I was being so careful with what I was eating/drinking. ‘Til this day, I still don’t know how I got it. As an adult, I was wiped out. I don’t know how my children would be if they were to get sick. I will pack all the necessary medications and bring lots and lots of hand sanitizer. Again, thank you so much for the post. I am so glad I found this before my trip. I look forward to reading your many upcoming destinations.
Hi Lynn, you’re welcome, no I haven’t had a chance to visit the South. I would love to though. Hope you have an amazing upcoming trip, stay safe!
Outstanding information thank you Mark, so much to digest, in a sense 🙂 A friend and I are going to Ho Chi Minh in November, so this was very timely. We always watch your videos, no matter the country or topic. Thank you.
Thank you very much for the support Steve, and great to hear you’ll be going to Ho Chi Minh City soon. Hope you have a great upcoming trip!
Thank you Lisa
Very useful and easy to watch or read!Very good job,Mark!
Very useful guide. Many thanks. However I am unable to sign up for the ebook because it will not let me use the email address that I am currently subscribed with:(
Hi Mark, you’re welcome, glad you like it. If you’re subscribed, it should re-direct you… I’ll look into that. I’ll e-mail you now.
Thanks for this great article and beautiful pics!!!
You’re welcome, thank you for reading Austin.
I was born and raised in Vietnam. It have been 24 yrs, I haven’t been back to visit. This yr summer i would like to take my families to visit Saigon. By reading your website, its very helpful. Most of my families live in District 4. Have you ever visit district 4? If yes, please let me know. Thanks
I have enjoyed your travells with my father /me 22 ge 82 / and wish to have your experiences mailed sincere regards/ i have finished a hotel – tourism college in Austria and wish to get more experiences for my future andrea
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Travel to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) – The Complete Guide
Vietnam’s southern metropolis, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, may not have the picture-postcard charms of its northern counterpart Hanoi, but as a melting pot of cultures, cuisines, old meets new and East meets West, where shimmering skyscrapers rub shoulders with colonial-era mansions, it has much more to offer than many first-time visitors give it credit for.
Here’s a rundown of how to make your trip to Saigon a success (just click on one of the links below to jump directly to the section you’re interested on).
- When to visit Saigon
Visas for Vietnam
How to get there, upon arrival, where to stay in saigon, money in vietnam, getting around, safety in saigon, what to see in saigon, what to do in saigon, where to eat in saigon, where to drink in saigon, price guide for saigon.
- Where next?
When to Visit Saigon
Vietnam’s tropical south experiences a dry season from November to April. The best time to visit is between early December and late February, when morning temperatures can start at a very pleasant 15°c, reaching a maximum of around 32°c by the afternoon. Low humidity and non-existent rainfall make these months the most comfortable for urban exploration.
If a visit during the wet season is unavoidable, it is worth bearing in mind that, although a tropical downpour is guaranteed almost every day, it will tend to arrive at around 2pm and be gone by 4 or 5pm. There are exceptions, of course, and while you can plan your day around the rain, it is always worth carrying an umbrella.
Most foreign visitors will need a visa to enter Vietnam. Visa-on-arrival is available at Tan Son Nhat Airport, although this can delay your onward transportation during busy periods.
Alternatively, single or multiple-entry visas can be arranged via your local Vietnamese embassy or consulate.
Recent legislation changes allow visitors from a select group of countries to visit Vietnam without visa for a short period of time. Read our article dedicated to visas for Vietnam to learn more .
Also, be sure to check with your nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate for the latest visa regulations before booking your trip.
Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport can be reached directly from numerous international destinations including London, Paris, Istanbul, Dubai, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Locally, budget airlines such as Jetstar, VietJet, and AirAsia, run direct flights from all over the region and from all of Vietnam’s major cities.
From Hanoi, Saigon can be reached in approximately two hours, for as little as US$25 (one way).
The ‘Reunification Express’ is Vietnam’s most famous train service, running almost the entire length of the country from Hanoi to Saigon. The journey takes approximately 35 hours, incorporating either one or two nights onboard, with a range of private and communal cabin options available. A soft-sleeper private cabin bed (with AC) will cost approximately US$80.
Most travellers prefer to break the journey up by stopping off at destinations such as Hue, Danang (for Hoi An), and Nha Trang.
Visit www.seat61.com , an English website, for all of the latest news, fares and timetables.
Buses can be used to reach Saigon from all over Vietnam. Prices, quality and drop-off points vary, so be sure to clarify exactly what you are paying for before handing over your cash.
For those in Cambodia, the Phnom Penh to Saigon bus route is an extremely affordable (and popular) route for locals and tourists. The journey takes approximately seven hours and drops passengers in the heart of Saigon’s tourist hub.
Upon arrival from Saigon’s airport
Tan Son Nhat Airport lies approximately 7 kilometres from the city centre. A shuttle-bus service is now in place to ferry passengers from the terminal to the centre of town, a 30 to 50-minute journey costing VND40,000 per passenger (approximately US$2) each way.
Another affordable option from the airport is to take a taxi. They are quick, easy and providing you use the correct company, their drivers are very knowledgeable about the city.
As you walk through and exit the terminal, do not engage with anyone offering you a cab. Simply follow the signs to find the taxi rank at the front of the terminal. While a variety of cab firms operate in Saigon, the safest and most reliable are Mai Linh and Vinasun .
Lookout for their logos, beware of copycats, and simply approach the next Vinasun or Mai Linh in the line (click on the link above to see the logos so that you can recognize them at the airport). Drivers from other firms know the score, so do not worry about stepping past them to get to the cab you want.
A taxi from the airport to Ben Thanh Market in the centre of District 1 will cost between VND140,000 and VND200,000 (approximately US$7 to $10) including a mandatory VND10,00 airport charge. The journey takes between 30 and 50 minutes depending on traffic. Be sure to write down the name and full address of your hotel to show the driver.
Upon arrival from Saigon’s train station
As with arriving at the airport, ignore any offers for taxi or motorbike rides into town. Head to the taxi rank and get into a Mai Linh or Vinasun car. From here to Ben Thanh market in the centre of the city will cost approximately VND50,000 (just over US$2).
Upon arrival from Saigon’s bus station
Saigon’s main bus station sits in the heart of the town opposite Ben Thanh Market. Many popular hotels can be reached from here on foot, or via a short taxi journey costing no more than US$2.
Saigon boasts accommodation options to suit all budgets, from the super luxurious to the most basic, in a range of locations around the city.
Most travellers, naturally, are drawn to District 1 in the centre of town, where the backpacker hub of Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien Streets provide numerous budget hostels and hotels surrounded by tourist-friendly bars, restaurants and nightspots. It is worth checking online reviews first, but many are perfectly clean, quiet and comfortable.
Click here to see a large list of hotels in Saigon .
Away from here, Dong Khoi Street, leading from the famous Notre Dame Cathedral to the Saigon River, is another popular location in District 1, particularly for those with a larger budget. Whether you choose author Graham Greene’s residence of choice, the Hotel Continental Saigon, an impressive French-era building overlooking the equally impressive Saigon Opera House, or the modern hotels surrounding it, Dong Khoi is a bustling, vibrant, yet upscale area that’s ideally positioned for exploring the rest of the city centre on foot.
For those looking to get a taste of Saigon life away from the tourist hotspots, District 3 is a good choice. Sitting directly adjacent to District 1, it too offers a range of high-quality, comfortable and international standard accommodation options while allowing quick and easy access to District 1 or the more off-the-beaten-track experiences nearby.
Our top hotel picks
Tripwriter Hotel & Bistro
Address: 185/28 Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
This modern boutique-style hotel sits on a quiet alleyway (or ‘hem’) running between the popular and lively backpacker strips of Bui Vien Street and Pham Ngu Lao Street. Its decor is a blend of 21st-century design and 19th-century colonial-era features, with all guests enjoying flat-screen TVs, free wifi and friendly, personal service from the hotel staff.
Huong Sen Hotel
Address: 66-68-70 Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Located in the middle of Dong Khoi Street, Huong Sen occupies one of the area’s many historic buildings, now beautifully restored and featuring a pool and gym, and surrounded by restaurants, shops, bars, tailors, and site-seeing attractions such as the famous Saigon Opera House.
Hotel des Arts Saigon
Address 76-78 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.
As the first five-star boutique hotel in Saigon, Hotel des Arts is one of the city’s most luxurious accommodation options, featuring a rooftop pool and cocktail bar, a fully-equipped gym, and several in-house drinking and dining options. Situated less than 500 metres from the Notre Dame Cathedral and the numerous bars and restaurants on Dong Khoi Street beyond, it’s an ideal base for exploring the city.
Vietnam’s currency is the Vietnamese Dong, or VND. At them moment I write, the exchange rate is around VND22,000 to 1 US Dollar. Click here to get the real time exchange rate.
Dollars have now been widely phased out in Vietnam. Although some tour companies and travel agencies still quote prices in Dollars, with certain shops, restaurants and hotels also accepting the currency, visitors should expect to pay for most things with Dong.
ATMs can be found all over the city, either inside convenience stores, outside banks, or randomly lined up along the street. They dispense dong only.
Dollars cannot be bought or sold in Vietnamese banks. Use a private money changer (many can be found near Bui Vien or Dong Khoi streets) to exchange currency.
Vietnamese currency comes in paper note form only. Some notes can look deceptively similar, such as the VND100,000 and the VND500,000. Always make sure you know what you are handing over before anyone assumes you’ve left a very generous tip!
With the soaring temperatures and the exhaust fumes from Saigon’s many motorbikes, taking a taxi is often the safest and most comfortable option , even for short journeys of just a few blocks.
Use either Mai Linh or Vinasun and simply wave them down at the side of the road. Use other firms at your own risk. Many are known to overcharge tourists or take them on long, unnecessary tours of the city.
While Vinasun and Mai Linh drivers have a good knowledge of Saigon’s streets, and will always strive to take the most direct route possible, be sure to have the full address written down. Vietnamese is extremely difficult to pronounce and even the simplest of street or hotel names can be lost in translation.
Tips are not expected but for the average hop across town, a few thousand dong will be greatly appreciated. And always carry small notes as drivers rarely carry large amounts of cash. Laying a VND500,000 note on a driver for a fare of just VND20,000 will not be appreciated.
Taxi fares in Saigon are extremely low, and even journeys from one end of town to the other can cost no more than US$5.
Uber and GrabCar are now in wide use across Saigon, although many users have found their drivers to have little knowledge of the city (despite their GPS systems!).
Otherwise known as a “xe om” in Vietnamese (literally translated as “bike hug”), you’ll find these guys on every other street corner, usually, and rather impossibly, reclined back and sleeping along the seats of their bike. Always agree a fee beforehand and show the driver the cash before climbing aboard.
While they can be a quick way of hopping around town, they are unregulated and have been known to grossly overcharge tourists, turning, for example, a pre-agreed fee of VND5,000 (around $0.25) into a charge of VND500,000 ($25) at the journey’s end.
If you do want to use one, do so at your own risk. While they carry spare helmets, these are often little more than a plastic bowl lined with polystyrene. Vietnam’s roads are some of the most dangerous in the world and general road safety is extremely poor.
The recent arrival of GrabBike looks set to turn the xe om industry on its head. If you do want to see the city on two wheels, this is one of the safer options, or, alternatively, take one of the many guided motorbike tours available (see ‘What to do’ below).
Saigon has a large public bus system. However, they are hot, they can be crowded, and without any way of knowing where you are, where you’re going, or when your stop is coming up, they are best left to the locals unless you are planning an extended stay.
Saigon is an extremely safe place to visit compared to other cities in Europe and Asia. Robberies are very rare, but do happen, particularly in the tourist-friendly areas like Dong Khoi Street, Ben Thanh Market and Bui Vien Street, where bag, camera, and phone snatching is on the rise.
“Slash and grab” theft is also an issue, so do take care when carrying bags through a crowd. Several tourists have found themselves with gaping holes in their rucksacks and the contents missing.
Checking your smartphone at the side of the road is also inadvisable. Remember, Vietnam is a developing country where a brand-new iPhone, for example, can represent an entire year’s wages for some.
Other than that, standard city rules apply. Do not carry large amounts of cash, do not wave your valuables around (especially your phone) be aware of your surroundings and, most importantly, relax! The Vietnamese people are, on the whole, extremely friendly and welcoming and most visitors leave without any issues whatsoever.
Also, make sure to get a travel insurance before traveling to Vietnam as, if something happens, hospital fees may be extremely expensive.
Saigon Central Post Office and Notre-Dame Cathedral
Located at the top of Dong Khoi Street, at the crossroads with Nguyen Du Street, this large open square is home to two of the city’s most iconic buildings. In the centre sits the magnificent twin-spired cathedral, built from bricks shipped from France in the late 1800s. To the east sits the colonial-era post office, built by the French in 1891. While the cathedral is rarely open to the public, the (still working) post office is worth a trip inside, if only to get postcards and stamps.
The Reunification Palace
The original French-built governor’s palace, built in 1873, sat on this site until 1962, when it was badly damaged by an aerial bomb attack and later demolished and replaced by the current building. As the home of the President of South Vietnam until Saigon fell to the North, a visit inside offers a fascinating insight into the history of the city. The private guided walking tour (VND200,00 / US$10 per group) is well worth the additional cost.
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1 Entrance fee: VND20,000 (US$1) Opening Time: 7.30am to 11.30am and 1pm to 5pm – 7 days
War Remnants Museum
Located just a few blocks from the Palace, and with an equally long lunch break, this multi-storey museum highlighting the loss and suffering (on both sides) caused by the Vietnam War (or, the American War, as it is known in Vietnam) is a harrowing yet rewarding experience. Given both attractions’ long lunch hours, it is best to visit the Reunification Palace in the morning and the War Remnants Museum in the afternoon (or the other way around), with a lunch stop at Propaganda Bistro nearby (see “Where to Eat” below).
Address: 28 Vo Van Tan, District 3 Entrance fee: VND15,000 (US$0.75) Opening time: 7.30am to 12pm and 1.30pm to 5pm – 7 days
Nguyen Hue Walking Street
What was once a busy, smelly, traffic-clogged boulevard through the centre of Saigon, was opened in 2015 as the city’s first ‘walking street’. With the impressive ‘Hotel de Ville’ at one end, guarded by a statue of President Ho Chi Minh, fountains in the middle, and the breezy riverfront at the bottom, it has become a favourite spot for the people of Saigon to meet and relax of an evening. Enjoy a coffee or meal at one of the many nearby cafes and restaurants.
Bui Vien Street
While it is far less hedonistic and far less raucous than Bangkok’s Khao San Road, Bui Vien is the centre of Saigon’s “backpacker town”. With dozens of tourist-friendly bars, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs and shops, it’s easy to see why some visitors rarely step foot outside of its lively confines. A buzzing nightlife also attracts the local Vietnamese crowd who come to enjoy the cheap beer and brush up on their English skills.
Dong Khoi Street
With designer shops, souvenir outlets, bars, restaurants, cafes, and some of Saigon’s most famous and historic hotels, a visit to Dong Khoi is essential.
Bitexco Financial Tower
Another of Saigon’s icons. At 263 metres, 68-storeys, Bitexco is the tallest building in the city. It’s also the most unusual, designed to resemble a flowering lotus bud, apparently. Head up to the Sky Deck on the 49th floor (entrance fee applies) or to the Sky Bar on the 51st-floor, to take in the unparalleled view of the city and beyond.
2 Hai Trieu, District 1
Lam Son Square
With the magnificent Saigon Opera House at its centre, a stroll around Lam Son Square takes in over a century of Saigon’s history, from the Continental Hotel, the first hotel to be built in the city, to the Park Hyatt Hotel and the site of the former US military building from where the famous “Good Morning Vietnam” Dawnbuster radio show was broadcast.
Take a street-food tour
Vietnam is world-famous for its cuisine, although unless you know where you’re going, you may be disappointed. Find the hidden gems and eat like a local on a walking tour with Street Foodies Saigon – streetfoodiessaigon.com
Grab a banh mi breakfast at the bird opera
On Saturdays or Sundays, get up early and make your way to Banh Mi Hong Hoa at 62 Nguyen Van Trang, District 1. This is one of the best banh mi vendors in the city. The classic pork and pate combo (banh mi thit) is everyone’s favourite, although their English menu lists several varieties.
With your sandwich in-hand, head two blocks north to enjoy it in Tao Dan Park where, among many other early-morning activities, the bird-owners of Saigon meet every weekend to let their birds learn new songs from each other. Find them outside the small cafe in the southeast corner. Take a seat, order a ca phe sua da, and enjoy your breakfast.
Get a massage
Spas and massage parlours can be found all over the city. Some are fine, some are not so. A favourite among the expat community is Moc Huong Spa, with two locations in District 1. It’s clean, it’s comfortable, it’s extremely professional, and the complimentary sauna, steam room and showers are a nice touch.
A basic one-hour body massage costs VND360,000 (US$18 approx), although for the ultimate indulgence, splash out on a two-hour, six-hand massage (yes, six hands), for VND1,200,000 (US$60 approx).
See the city from the back of a motorbike
Saigon is well-known for its millions of motorbikes. If you’re feeling left out (and really, the roads are safer than they look, we promise), book a tour with Vietnam Vespa Adventures . Their fleet of professional, friendly drivers will show you the sights, smells, sounds and flavours of Saigon, all led by an English-speaking guide.
Their restored vintage Vespa motorbikes are seriously cool, and are surprisingly comfortable to ride pillion. Options range from daytime sightseeing and food tours, to “off the beaten track” trips into the Mekong Delta . If you’re looking for a taste of Saigon’s nightlife, the ‘Saigon After Dark’ tour is a must.
Music, theatre and dance performances are held regularly at the Saigon Opera House (officially known as the Municipal Theatre), and are a great chance to see inside this historic building. The AO Show is a regular highlight on their listings.
Featuring a blend of acrobatics, circus skills, visual art and dance, it draws inspiration from everyday life in Vietnam, from the fishing villages of the coast, to the frenetic city streets.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a vast network of underground tunnels and hiding places used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Visitors are able to head deep below ground and explore them, though it’s not for the faint-hearted or claustrophobic. There are a several small museum exhibitions and dioramas, plus a live-firing rifle range if you fancy firing off a few rounds from a range of antique weaponry.
Many visitors choose to take a tour bus out to the tunnels, but our favourite way is by speed boat, with Les Rives , an ideal opportunity to see Vietnam’s stunning countryside on the way. With breakfast served onboard during the outward journey, you’ll also arrive at the tunnels well before the tour buses (and the crowds).
Saigon’s networks of alleyways (or “hems” as they are known in Vietnamese) can be vast, and are always full of surprises. Don’t be afraid to wander and get lost – they’ll reach a main road eventually. Another interesting way to spend an afternoon is exploring an old apartment block.
Many of these crumbling megaliths are filled with hidden treasures mixed in among the residential units, such as boutique shops, bistro restaurants, and quirky hidden bars and cafes. Head inside the block at 14 Ton That Dam, District 1, for one of the city’s finest example of urban renewal.
Discover Saigon’s secrets
As a hotbed for secret Viet Cong activity during the war, Saigon is scattered with hidden rooms, basements and weapons storage facilities. Head to Pho Binh, an otherwise normal-looking pho noodle soup restaurant at 7 Ly Chin Thang in District 3, and, once you’ve finished your meal, the owner will show you around the secret Viet Cong meeting room upstairs.
On the other side of District 3, the narrow house at 287/70 Nguyen Dinh Chieu holds another surprise. Lift the disguised hatch in the floor to find a hidden storage facility for the Viet Cong’s weapons. There’s a small display case with photos and (Vietnamese) descriptions, plus mock weaponry to show how it once looked. It’s small but well worth a visit if you are in the area. It’s free to enter but does close for lunch.
To fully appreciate the melting pot that is 21st-century Saigon, head to the city’s “little Tokyo”, which begins at the crossroads with Le Thanh Ton Street and Hai Ba Trung in District 1. Heading along Le Thanh Ton, away from Dong Khoi Street, find the largest concentration of Japanese shops, bars and restaurants the city has to offer. Head into the alleyway at 17 Le Thanh Ton to enter ‘the Japanese ghetto’ – a maze of karaoke bars, noodles shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
A Drink with a view
When the sun is setting, there’s no better place to be than high up on a rooftop with an ice-cold beer or cocktail. Fortunatley, Saigon has a range of choices to suit every budget. Of the swanky hotels, the Caravelle’s ‘Saigon Saigon’ bar is the least pretentious and the most affordable, especially at happy-hour (see ‘Where to Drink’ below). For the best view, however, head to the Duc Vuong Hotel at 195 Bui Vien, District 1. The rooftop bar is cheap, friendly and wonderfully laid-back. It also has an almost 360-degree view of the city and the shimmering downtown skyline.
While Vietnamese cuisine will be the top choice for any first-time visitor to Saigon, the city is home to some superb international eateries, from authentic US barbecue to freshly prepared sushi, Korean grills or homemade Italian fare. With a rapidly expanding expat population, the choices on offer have never been better.
Nha Hang Ngon, 160 Pasteur Street, District 1
All of Saigon’s street food on one menu, under one roof. One of the most popular restaurants in the city, for good reason. It’s cheap, it’s beautiful and the service is efficient and friendly.
Pho Hoa, 260c Pasteur Street, District 3
The oldest pho restaurant in Saigon. It’s a bit of a trip out from the centre of District 1 (maybe 10 to 15 minutes in a taxi) but there are few that can match it in terms of taste and authenticity. For meat-eaters, get the pho bo tai (beef fillet). It’s their speciality.
Bun Thit Nuong, street restaurant, 1 Nguyen Trung Truc, District 1 (near Ben Thanh Market)
If Hanoi has bun cha, Saigon has bun thit nuong, a bowl of cold vermicelli noodles, grilled pork skewers, crab spring rolls, plenty of fresh leaves and herbs, and topped with a zingy fish sauce. Cooked, sold and eaten on the street, it doesn’t get more authentic than this.
Banh Mi Hoa Ma, 53 Cao Thang, District 3
A breakfast-time institution. This open-air street diner has been here since 1960 and serves a sizzling skillet of fried pork, eggs, pate, tofu and onions, with a freshly baked bread roll on the side. There’s also a traditional banh mi thit on offer. Arrive early – it closes around 10am.
Bo La Lot Co Lien, 321 Vo Van Tan, District 3
Bo La Lot, a dish of ground beef wrapped in betel leaves, is famous all over Vietnam. Mrs Lien’s version is considered by many to be the best in town.
Propaganda Vietnamese Bistro, 21 Han Thuyen, District 1
The music is funky, the wines are superb, and the food a modern take on the Vietnamese classics. Propaganda serves everything from breakfast to lunch, dinner and beyond, in a cool, contemporary environment.
Rico Taco, 23 Ngo Thoi Nhiem, District 3
Get out of District 1 and head to this lively, modern and semi open-air diner on a picturesque street in District 3. Rico Taco is a favourite haunt of the expat crowd, and for good reason. The food is authentic, plentiful and affordable, and the margaritas are lethal.
Quan Ut Ut, 60 Truong Sa, Binh Thanh District
Quan Ut Ut’s original location is in District 1, but this one is the best. Get out of the city-centre and visit this atmospheric ‘pop-up’ barbecue joint on the banks of the Thi Nghi Canal. There are beer towers, huge wooden picnic benches, and a suitably rocky soundtrack. Oh, and there’s also some of the best barbecue food you will ever eat.
Ciao Bella, 11 Dong Du, District 1
A Saigon institution. Family-owned and with warm and friendly staff, arriving at Ciao Bella is like coming home. The Italian owners know their stuff and whether you go for a pizza, a pasta, or a grill, you will come away very happy –
Robata Dining An, 15c Le Thanh Ton, District 1
Located in the centre of Saigon’s ‘Japan town’, Robata Dining An is a favourite among the huge Japanese population of Saigon, owing to its fresh, delicious and expertly prepared sushi. Other Japanese favourites are available, from grilled meats to soba and soups.
Mekong Merchant, 23 Thao Dien, District 2
Head over the Saigon River to District 2 and this chilled-out restaurant hidden among the thatched roofs and banana trees. The menu is eclectic, ranging from British-style meat pies, to pizza, seafood, and local specialities.
Bui Vien Street, District 1
This street in the heart of the ‘backpacker district’ is lined with (and surrounded by) bars, nightclubs and curbside drinks vendors. Come happy-hour, it is one of the cheapest places to drink in the city.
Saigon Saigon (Caravelle Hotel rooftop), 19 – 23 Lam Son Square, District 1
A favourite hangout for foreign correspondents during the war, Saigon Saigon bar boasts excellent happy-hour deals and the friendliest staff of all of Saigon’s classy rooftop watering holes – caravellehotel.com
The First Bar, 23 Huynh Thuc Khang Street, District 1
Whisky drinkers take note: this tiny hole-in-the-wall bar boasts the city’s largest collections of whisky, scotch and bourbon. Staff are friendly and knowledgable and the music is cool and refined (just like its drinks).
Pasteur Street Brewing Company, 144 Pasteur Street, District 1
Saigon has undergone a craft beer revolution over the past few years. Hidden down a dark passageway behind the Rex Hotel, at the top of a narrow staircase, this is where it all started.
Hoa Vien Brauhaus, 18 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1
A reminder of Vietnam’s communist connections, this enormous Czech brewery and beerhall is like a slice of Prague transported to the end of an alleyway in Saigon.
5KU Station, 27 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1
For Vietnamese people, drinking and eating go hand-in-hand. This youthful chain of beer clubs springs up in vacant city lots to pump out cheap beer and tasty food. This branch in District 1 is easily accessed from Dong Khoi Street. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a few new local friends.
BiaCraft Artisan Ales, 90 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, District 2
As numerous craft brewers sprang up all over the city, Bia Craft was the first to bring them all together under one roof. This American-style bar is small and cosy and located in District 2 (approximately 30 minutes by taxi from the downtown area). Prefix it with a meal in nearby Mekong Merchant (see ‘Where to Eat’) for the perfect evening in Saigon’s expat hub.
The following is a list of basic items you might need to purchase along with a rough guide to their cost. Current US$ exchange rate is around VND20,500.
- Small bottle of water: VND5,000 to VND10,000 in the street, VND15,000 to VND30,000 in a restaurant.
- Large bottle of water: VND10,000 to VND20,000 in the street, VND30,000 to VND40,000 in a restaurant.
- A local beer (Saigon Beer / 333): VND15,000 in a street food restaurant or convenience store. VND20,00 to VND50,000 in a more upmarket or Western-style restaurant.
- A ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk): VND10,000 to VND15,000 from a street vendor, VND20,000 to VND50,000 in a cafe.
- A meal in a street food restaurant: VND20,000 to VND60,000.
- A meal in a western or upmarket restaurant: VND100,000 to VND 500,000+.
- A banh mi sandwich: VND15,000 to VND35,000.
- A pair of “Ray-Ban” sunglasses from a street vendor: VND40,000 depending on your bartering skills. They’ll often start at around VND600,000. Beware, however, that counterfeit sunglasses frequently offer little to no UV protection.
- Postcard: VND5,000.
- Postage stamp to Europe: VND12,000. Available only in post offices.
To the beach.
The Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc is less than an hour’s flight from Saigon. It’s a favourite weekend destination for the expat crowd and some of its beaches are simply breathtaking. Whether you go scuba diving, hiking or simply spend your days on a lounger with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other, it’s easy to see why Phu Quoc is so popular.
For Saigon’s nearest beach resort, head to Vung Tau , accessed via the Saigon River on a funky Russian hydrofoil which departs several times a day. Its beaches are nowhere near as pretty as Phu Quoc, and it caters largely to the local crowd, hence some very mixed reviews from foreign tourists.
The beach resort of Mui Ne can be accessed via train or bus in less than half a day. It’s popular with kite-boarders and windsurfers, or those that just want to chill out, and boasts all sorts of accommodation options from the dirt-cheap to the uber-luxurious.
To the jungle
The Nam Cat Tien National Park lies approximately 150km from the centre of Ho Chi Minh City and can be accessed by public bus or private car in approximately 3 to 4.5 hours. The park hosts an abundance of wildlife, including crocodiles, tropical birds, and a small (endangered) population of gibbons. A variety of accommodation options are available both inside and outside the park perimeter, from riverside bamboo bungalows, to traditional communal houses. Visitors to the area can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and guided wildlife tours. Be sure to visit the gibbon sanctuary and primate rescue centre on the park’s eastern boundary.
To the hills
Used as a French “hill station” in the colonial era, the city of Dalat’s cool, mountain air, lush pine forests and positively chilly weather is a great way to cool down after visiting Saigon. Numerous tour companies operate hiking and biking tours of the surrounding countryside which is dotted with hillside farms and coffee plantations. More adrenaline-packed activities such as mountain biking and canyoning are also on offer. From Saigon, Dalat can be reached in approximately 8 hours by bus, or 50 minutes by air.
The road from Saigon to Phnom Penh is a daily stream of travelers hopping between the two cities on the various bus services in operation. Despite being so close, Phnom Penh is a very different city to Saigon and is well worth a visit if you have time. Take note, unlike Vietnam, the dollar is very much the main currency in Cambodia, although for anything under a dollar the local currency (riel) will be used. Money changers on Dong Khoi Street, in Saigon, will be more than happy to sell dollars before you depart, although all ATMs in Cambodia dispense it too.
About The Author
Ten unconventional habits of Vietnamese (photo stories)
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5 thoughts on “travel to saigon (ho chi minh city) – the complete guide”.
Thank you for your information to introduce Saigon destination to other travellers. Could you please help to keep another speedboat tour operator in there is FISHEYE TRAVEL It is also another choice for travellers
thank you for reading!
Very informative and helpful. Thank you for the information.
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Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City, as Saigon is officially known these days, is easily the most head-spinning city in Vietnam, so expect to feel somewhat shell-shocked upon arrival. Don’t worry – you will soon get over the sensory overload and discover a charming mosaic of cultures and attractions underneath the superficial hustle and bustle.
The French conquest of Saigon in 1859 is still evident through the broad boulevards and colonial architecture, but the city is now the throbbing heart of a rapidly developing country, with all the usual trappings of modern-day consumerism very much on display. Designer malls and fine restaurants vie for space with age-old temples and street food stalls, forming an uneasy but fascinating blend of old and new.
With motorbikes zigzagging endlessly across your path, soon enough you will find yourself looking to escape the maddening traffic. There’s no better way of doing this than to venture into Saigon’s “hem” – a tangled network of narrow alleys where the local lifestyle can be witnessed in its full glory. Don’t leave Saigon without getting lost in one of these!
Top Activities in Ho Chi Minh
Top Attractions in Ho Chi Minh
Top Hotels in Ho Chi Minh
Top Restaurants in Ho Chi Minh
Events in Ho Chi Minh
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Jackfruit (a burlesque show).
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time to visit ho chi minh city .
The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. If you’d like warm temperatures and plenty of activities, the summer months from April to October (23°C to 35°C) are usually recommended. However, if you’re looking for cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, the winter months from November to March may be better suited for your needs.
What kind of transportation options are available in Ho Chi Minh City?
There are several types of transportation options available in Ho Chi Minh City including private car hire, taxi services, bus and train services, and motorcycle taxis (xe om). It’s important to be aware of local traffic regulations before using any type of transport as well as taking precautions such as wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle taxi.
What kind of accommodation is available in Ho Chi Minh City?
There is a wide range of accommodation options available in Ho Chi Minh City such as luxury hotels, budget guesthouses, serviced apartments, and homestays. Different types of accommodation can be found across all areas of the city so it’s important to do some research beforehand to find out what best suits your needs and budget.
Are there any cultural activities that can be experienced in Ho Chi Minh City?
Yes, visitors can explore local markets such as Ben Thanh Market and Cho Cu Market where they can find a variety of handicrafts and traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Additionally, there are various festivals held throughout the year which give visitors an opportunity to experience local customs firsthand.
Are there any restrictions on food and drink in Ho Chi Minh City?
Generally speaking, there are no restrictions on food and drink in Ho Chi Minh City but visitors should always be aware of local customs before consuming any alcoholic beverages or eating certain types of food. Additionally, it’s important to only drink bottled water as tap water may not be safe for consumption.
Are there any safety considerations when visiting Ho Chi Minh City?
Yes, visitors should always take precautions when traveling in Ho Chi Minh City and ensure that they take necessary steps such as keeping a copy of their passport with them at all times and avoiding carrying large sums of money or valuables in public places. Additionally, it’s wise to avoid traveling alone at night and to familiarize yourself with local laws and customs.
Are there any activities suitable for children in Ho Chi Minh City?
Yes, there are plenty of activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family while visiting Ho Chi Minh City such as learning about the city’s history at the War Remnants Museum, visiting a water park such as Dam Sen Water Park, or playing games at an amusement park like Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park. Additionally, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes that offer kid-friendly menus and activities.
Is it possible to visit nearby cities from Ho Chi Minh City?
Yes, there are various day trips available from Ho Chi Minh City that allow visitors to explore neighboring cities such as Can Tho in the Mekong Delta region or Nha Trang on the central coast. There are also several overnight tour packages available if you’d like to spend more time exploring the region around Ho Chi Minh City.
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Visit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Things to do
Take a photo of Ho Chi Minh City, and you’ll find it out of date within weeks. Once a city devastated by war, it’s now becoming a modern metropolis, buzzing with contemporary hotels, modern restaurants and shops. Wander its streets and you’ll discover it still retains character, however, with French-colonial architecture, flourishing markets and peaceful temples. Officially renamed in 1976 to Ho Chi Min city, it’s still referred to by the locals as Saigon.
Exploring Ho Chi Minh City, the bustling and vibrant hub of Southern Vietnam, will always yield a sort of “East meets West” vibe as you meander through the chaotically organised streets and markets flooded with life.
Things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City
See ho chi minh city like a local.
Weaving in and out of the streets, you’ll stop at some local haunts along the way. Finding the best seafood stall or best pancake house, you’ll be able to eat alongside local families and gossiping friends. The evening will finish with an interesting journey through narrow alleys and staircases to one of Ho Chi Minh City’s hidden coffee bars. Acoustic music, sometimes in candlelight, provides an intimate setting to enjoy a nightcap.
Stroll the boulevards of District One
Whilst much of Ho Chi Minh City has grown sporadically, streets sprawling out from its heart to meet the demands of a growing city, District One has a different feel. Planned in detail by French colonialists in the late 19th century, it incorporates wide, tree lined boulevards and frequent parks. Stroll the streets and you’ll find cosmopolitan cafés and excellent shopping.
It’s also where you’ll find some of the key sites. The Saigon Opera House is a lavish display of French colonial architecture. Book the popular A O show to see traditional music, acrobatics and dance tell the story of rural Vietnamese adapting to urban development. Nearby is the Central Post Office, a well-preserved lemon yellow building designed by Gustave Eiffel. Pop inside and you’ll find huge hand-painted maps that depict Ho Chi Minh City in 1892.
Dine overlooking Ho Chi Minh City in Bitexco Financial Tower
The highest point on Ho Chi Minh City’s skyline, Bitexco Financial Tower is at the heart of the city’s financial quarter. Designed by Carlos Zapata, its 68 storeys are inspired by the national flower, the lotus — although it’s a little tricky to see the resemblance. A slick, glass building, its teetering helipad is the focal point, looking like a CD poking out of a CD player.
Predominantly office space, floors 49-51 are open to visitors. The Skydeck is a viewing platform on the 49th floor with 360 degree views from the floor to ceiling windows. There’s a relaxed coffee shop with seating lined up facing the view. On the floor above is EON 51, a fine dining restaurant serving Asian and Western food, but before you eat you could watch the sunset from the EON Heli Bar, with a team of expert mixologists, the cocktails here come recommended.
Visit the War Remnants Museum
Originally named the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, the War Remnants Museum is a harrowing but fascinating account of the Vietnam War. As its original name implied, the information is arguably one sided, but the documents and artefacts tell their own story. The collection includes tiger cages, where members of the Viet Cong were kept. Outside is a collection of US armoured vehicles, weapons and aircraft.
Legendary war photographer Tim Page has curated a captivating exhibition, Requiem, which shows the work of war photographers of the era — many of whom were killed in action. There is also a more upbeat display of posters and photos of anti-war movements around the world.
Step into the Cu Chi tunnels
At the site it’s possible to watch original film footage of the tunnels, illustrating their use as hospitals, schools and communication channels. Part of the tunnel has been enlarged, enabling visitors to step underground. Snaking up and down for 50 m (164 ft), the unlit tunnel is 1.2 m (4 ft) high and 80 cm (2.5 ft) wide.
Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, is a city within the city. Dating back to the 18th century, Chinese minorities fled here to hide from the Tay Son. They stayed and built a community selling Chinese products to the Vietnamese. Start in Bin Tay market and you’ll find wholesalers selling everything from silk to plastic buckets, as well as artisans selling embroidered fabric and lacquered wooden objects.
Outside, the streets are lined with street hawkers and small authentic restaurants selling dishes with exotic ingredients including dried seahorse and salted duck eggs. Step away from the bustle into one of the many temples and you’ll find a little pocket of calm. The most revered is the Thien Hau Pagoda, built to worship the goddess of the ocean — particularly important to a community of traders who arrived by sea.
Best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City
It’s possible to visit Ho Chi Minh City year round but it’s a good idea to be aware of Vietnam’s three microclimates. November to April, with dry days and low humidity, is the best time to go. It’s also the driest time for the rest of Vietnam too. March to May can be very sticky with temperatures reaching 39°C (102°F). Showers are frequent from May to October but with intermittent sunshine, but it’s worth considering for good value hotels.
Festivals, events and seasonal reasons to visit
- The lunar new year, known as Tet, tends to fall in late January or early February. Across Vietnam homes are decorated with strings of lights and flags. Gifts are given and homes are filled with flowers and small potted trees. Ho Chi Minh City seems to turn yellow — considered a lucky colour to welcome the new year. Travel can be busy during this time and most restaurants and shops close.
- The 2nd September each year marks the Vietnam Declaration of Independence from France in 1945. Ho Chi Minh City is decked in thousands of Vietnam flags as locals enjoy the public holiday. An impressive firework display is set off over the city.
Start planning your tailor-made trip to Ho Chi Minh City by contacting one of our Vietnam specialists
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Suggested itineraries featuring Ho Chi Minh City
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Ho Chi Minh City, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Cruising the Mekong from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap
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Luxury tour of Vietnam
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Exploring the Mekong & Angkor Wat
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Vietnam's Mekong Delta
11 days from £4,070pp
Essential Vietnam tour
13 days from £3,730pp
Classic Vietnam tour
19 days from £5,730pp
Family adventure to Vietnam
17 days from £6,245pp
Following the Mekong: Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam
22 days from £7,985pp
Grand tour of Indochina: Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia
24 days from £15,160pp
Map of Ho Chi Minh City
Places & hotels on the map, places near ho chi minh city.
- Cai Be 55 miles away
- Cat Tien National Park 61 miles away
- Can Tho 81 miles away
- Mekong Delta 81 miles away
- Mui Ne & Phan Thiet 97 miles away
- Chau Doc 108 miles away
- Dalat 144 miles away
- Con Dao Islands 144 miles away
- Central Highlands 160 miles away
- Buon Ma Thuot 161 miles away
- Phu Quoc 188 miles away
- Nha Trang 198 miles away
- Kon Tum 263 miles away
- Quy Nhon 269 miles away
Photos of Ho Chi Minh City
Accommodation choices for Ho Chi Minh City
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Ho Chi Minh City. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel
Pandaw River Expeditions
Liberty Central Saigon Citypoint
Sofitel Plaza Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City
Hôtel des Arts Saigon
Ideas for experiencing ho chi minh city.
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Ho Chi Minh City, and which use the best local guides.
Ho Chi Minh City's Secret Alleys
This tour of Ho Chi Minh City’s alleys will give you an authentic insight into the daily lives of those that reside and work in this particular district of the city. It finishes at a previously covert location that was used during the war to store weapons.
Ho Chi Minh City After Dark
This is a fun and authentic way of discovering Ho Chi Minh City, and although you will have your own driver, we ask that you are confident at riding pillion on a Vespa scooter.
Retracing the Past
Visit what were some of the most important places in Ho Chi Minh City during the Vietnam War.
Ho Chi Minh City Tour
This half-day tour will take in the main sites of Ho Chi Minh City including Rue Catinat, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Palace and the Museum of War Remnants.
Cu Chi Tunnels Excursion
Go underground into Cu Chi’s hidden network of Viet Cong tunnels, bunkers and field hospitals. Dug during the French-Indochina wars, they were expanded during later conflicts and proved to be a constant thorn in the side of the Saigon regime.
- Friday, November 17, 2023
- Tours in Saigon
EVERYTHING ABOUT SAIGON FOR TOURISTS
Saigon with a dynamic lifestyle is voted one of 3rd tourist destinations in Vietnam and attracts both domestic and foreign tourists to visit, entertainment and shopping.
Eviva Tour Vietnam offer info travel guide to Saigon and information on weather, transportation, hotels, attractions, cuisine, travel tips and more.
Being a typical tropical monsoon climate, the weather in Saigon divided into two seasons with high temperatures throughout the year. The dry season (from December to April next year) is the best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City . The rainy season lasts from June to November with sudden rain without warning in a sunny day. However, it is short rains, therefore, remember to bring an umbrella and you can choose Sai Gon as the destination for your vacation during this period.
You can travel to Ho Chi Minh City by various means such as airplanes, cruises, trains or cars.
– Tan Son Nhat airport is the largest international airport in Vietnam in terms of area and passenger capacity, located in Tan Binh district and about 6 kilometers from the city centre. The airport has connection with 18 domestic destinations and 32 international destinations in 19 countries. It is the most convenient, swift, expensive option.
– Another luxury transportation for foreign tourists is international cruise lines from Europe, USA, Australia, etc and landed at Phu My commercial port (Vung Tau). Thereafter, by a short journey by taxi or car, you can reach Ho Chi Minh.
– If you travel to other provinces before visit Ho Chi Minh, you can choose train or cars to enjoy exciting experience. A journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh by train/cars can take you 30-40 hours and by cars
Move around Saigon: You can walk to places near your accommodation or choose reputable taxi companies such as Mai Linh, Vinasun. If you wish to know how complicated traffic in Saigon is, you can rent motorbikes to move with the price of 100.000-150.000 dong per day.
If you are a simple backpacker, you can choose some hostels with budget from 200,000VND (~US$10) per night. In case you can afford budget of around $50, you can stay in a good 3* hotel in the city center such as Nguyen Trai street, Le Thanh Ton Street or Ben Thanh Market area which is so convenient for sightseeing.
You are advised to book hotels in advance through online website such as www.booking.com or www.agoda.com or through travel agencies, especially in high season to make sure that your room is available.
If it is your first visit to Saigon, some well-known attractions like Ben Thanh Market, City Post Office , Opera House , Notre Dame Cathedral , Reunification Palace … are must-see places in your schedule.
1. Central Post Office
This is a famous old architectural building with French architecture features since 1891. Visitors not only enjoy the unique architecture of the post office but also immerse in the ancient world, from mail boxes to the phone call counters. The harmonious combination among this historical building, Notre Dame Cathedral and modern skyscrapers around makes this location to be ancient and modern beautiful place in the city.
2. Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace , also known as Independence Palace, is situated on a large are of 15ha in the heart of the city. It was house and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It is witness history for victory of Independence War of Vietnam 1975. This is not only a unique attractive architecture for tourists but also place for many important historical events of the city in particular and the country in general.
3. Notre Dame
Located in the heart of Saigon, Notre Dame does not have a fence and adjacent campus. Cathedral is a highlight in the urban space, with beautiful views from all sides. The architecture of the church has created fantastic lighting effects in the interior, creating a sense of stillness, holy and solemn. It is said that Notre Dame is a perfect work of architecture, is a typical work emblematic of Saigon. Not only fascinating tourists far away, Notre Dame Cathedral with majestic beauty become famous photographic venue for wedding photography.
4. Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is seen as a symbol of the city tour. The market was built in the main square with four gates opened four directions east, west, south and north. Shopping at Ben Thanh Market, visitors can buy favorite items for souvenir and enjoy delicious food in the food court. In evening, Ben Thanh night market attracts hundreds of visitors to go shopping and enjoy delicious street food until midnight.
Located right on Le Loi – Dong Khoi Street, the Opera House is also attractions that visitors can hardly miss in Saigon. Although it was built more than a century ago, characteristic of Western architecture has been remained. The Opera House is not only a venue for music events but also the site of the city’s major exhibitions of literature, art or social activities.
Some other attractions such as The War Museum (Vo Van Tan Street, District 3); Ethnographic Museum (Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1); Vietnam History Museum (Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1), Nha Rong Wharf are interesting places that you should consider.
1. Cơm tấm (Broken rice)
Broken rice is a simple dish that you can find easily on all streets in Saigon. If you come here without try this dish, it is regarded as you have not set foot in Saigon. The food is usually served with ingredients such as rib, omelet, pork skin, rolls, etc in addition to a special sweet and sour fish source
2. Hủ Tiếu (a type of rice noodle)
The Hủ Tiếu dish is a typical dish of Ho Chi Minh City’s citizen like Pho in Hanoi. It originated from China and be cooked in a little different way to suit the tastes of Vietnam. In Saigon, there are some well-known brands such as Nam Vang, My Tho, Sa Dec and a simple dish noodles on streets – knocking noodle. A full bowl of Hủ Tiếu normally includes broth, shrimp, pork, minced meat, rice noodles; eat together with lettuce, shallots.
3. Pho (a type of rice noodle)
Pho is a famous dish in Vietnam that you can find in any city, province. From its original place in the north, the cook way is modified cook way to suit with taste of locals. The noodle in Saigon is slender than Hanoi’s Pho, the broth is also sweeter. Besides traditional beef Pho, diners have more variations such as fish noodle, chicken noodle; seafood noodle, etc.
1. Shopping Malls
Saigon is a shopper’s paradise with many well-known shopping centers. At the heart of Saigon, you can visit towers on Nguyen Hue, Le Loi, Ly Tu Trong, Dong Khoi Street… There are full famous international fashion brands in the world for your choice.
2. Fashion Streets
If you prefer to go shopping in fashion shops with reasonable price, you can look to Nguyen Trai Street (District 5), Le Van Sy (Tan Binh District), Vo Van Tan, Nguyen Dinh Chieu (District 3) … and you can easily find yourself a nice dress or a trendy shirt with affordable price. However, apart from some stores with clear listed prices, you need to know how to bargain to avoid buying items overpriced.
3. China town market, An Dong Market
These two markets can be called a paradise of fashion when you can find all kinds of clothing, fabric, bags, cosmetics; might be a brand name or not… The price here is not clear, according to your negotiate ability, you can buy goods with only one-third price in a store in fashion streets.
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Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: which Vietnamese metropolis has the edge?
Nov 16, 2023 • 7 min read
Hanoi’s historic alleys, or Ho Chi Minh City’s broad boulevards? © iStock; Shutterstock
Who doesn’t want to visit Vietnam ? This Southeast Asian powerhouse has it all: beautiful beaches, unparalleled history, diverse cultures...and did we mention the food?
The country’s two biggest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City provide most travelers’ first impressions of this singular country. They’re both cosmopolitan, exciting and oh-so-Vietnamese – and yet oh-so-different, too.
Which is the right gateway to Vietnam’s delights? We asked two experts to go head to head to make the case for their preferred burg.
Hanoi? Oh, boy
A veteran guidebook writer and journalist, Joe Bindloss first got the Hanoi bug in the 1990s. A three-decade-long entanglement keeps drawing him back to this fascinating, multi-layered city.
Yeah, I’m going to say it – Hanoi rocks.
From the bia hoi (“fresh” beer) and the next-generation guitar heroes getting the dance floor pumping at Hanoi Rock City to the Communist symbols adorning civic buildings and scattered mementos of the late Nguyen empire, the Vietnamese capital will rock your world. After decades of travel here, it still rocks mine.
Competing for the love of first-time visitors to Vietnam, historic Hanoi and handsome Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) remain locked in a face-off to rival the Beatles and the Stones. And it would be foolish to talk down either city – both are captivating, complex, full-flavored and steeped in history. Yet since Ho Chi Minh himself is a permanent resident of Hanoi – preserved in state in an iconic mausoleum by Ba Dinh Square – who are we to question the judgment of Vietnam’s national hero?
On my first visit, Hanoi bowled me over – at times almost literally, thanks to the profusion of speeding motorcycles and scooters. For instant immersion into Hanoi life, make for the atmospheric Old Quarter, which stubbornly resists the march of modernity. On an early-morning wander, you’ll spy vendors hauling fruit and vegetables on traditional yokes, shop workers commuting in buggy-like cyclos (rickshaws) and old-timers with Uncle Ho–style beards playing chess outside balcony-fronted shophouses.
For me, a lot of Hanoi’s magic comes down to feel. In this multicultural capital, laid-back rhythms collide with the pomp and grandeur of dynastic China and an unmistakably French attitude. You’ll sense this melting pot most strongly at mealtimes, as you wash down fragrant noodle soups, succulent pork belly with vermicelli, delicate bánh cuon spring rolls and loaded bánh mì (baguette) sandwiches with strong coffee, draft beer and shots of “snake wine.” (Yes, it’s made from real snakes.)
And you’ll love how easy it is to slide back into history in Hanoi. Start off at the Imperial Citadel and Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword) – a mirror-like pool that comes with its own King Arthur–style legend and a dainty, dragon-topped tower. Hanoi’s sanctuaries – red-and-gold lacquered Bach Ma Temple , garden-ringed Hai Ba Trung Temple , the thousand-year-old Temple of Literature – anchor the city in an age of ritual and ceremony.
Okay, HCMC probably has the edge when it comes to American war relics, but I love Hanoi for its museums. From the compelling National Museum of Vietnamese History and the patriarchy-undermining Vietnamese Women’s Museum to the thought-provoking displays on Vietnam’s independence struggle at Hoa Lo Prison and the crash course in tribal culture offered by the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology , Hanoi is the perfect primer for exploring the rest of the country.
Hanoi gets bonus points for another reason: it’s just a whole lot of fun. Whether you settle into a French-era cafe with a cup of ca phe trung (egg coffee), cruise the streets gorging on northern-style street food, dress up for a cocktail with a skyline view at the Lighthouse Sky Bar , or pull up a plastic stool to quaff crisp local beers at Bia Hoi Junction, Hanoi is a place to embrace the unrepressed enjoyment of travel.
And consider the location: HCMC may be the doorway to the Mekong Delta , but Hanoi is the leaping off point for the karst islands of Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay , and the emerald uplands and minority villages of the mountainous northwest . You’re also an easy overnight train ride from the imperial wonders of Hue and a half-day bus ride from green and serene Ba Be National Park . Wherever else you go, you’ll get more from your trip if you start off in this rocking town.
Did I mention that food, accommodation and nightlife are cheaper here, too? Dong for dong, Hanoi has the edge.
For the win? Ho Chi Minh City
Born in Ho Chi Minh City, James Pham, Lonely Planet destination editor for Southeast Asia, has been back living in the city of his birth for the last 12 years.
Hanoi is Vietnam’s political and cultural capital. Ho Chi Minh City is the capital of everything else that (really) matters – like food, fun and commerce.
Granted, Hanoi has been Vietnam’s capital for nearly a millennium – with all the heritage buildings and monuments to go along with that storied history. Ho Chi Minh City, on the other hand, was only founded in the late 17th century, but has made up for lost time with its glittering cityscape, newer infrastructure and thriving nightlife and food scene. In short, Hanoi is the traditional older brother. Ho Chi Minh City is the younger, hipper sibling.
While Ho Chi Minh City’s population is almost double that of Hanoi’s (9.3 million vs 5.2 million), HCMC’s downtown core is an elegant, tree-lined contrast to Hanoi’s almost-always crowded Old Quarter. On HCMC’s broader streets, its diverse range of attractions spread out, from the historic buildings in glitzy District 1 (including the French colonial-era Saigon Opera House , Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office ) to the trendy eating and drinking hub of District 3 to its atmospheric Cho Lon (Chinatown).
Beyond statistics, Ho Chi Minh City simply feels younger. Students come here from all over the country for university while others are enticed by job opportunities. More influenced by foreign cultures (especially the French during the colonial era and the Americans during the war), the people of Ho Chi Minh City are cosmopolitan and open to change. It’s here where trends are born and entrepreneurs look to get their start.
This incredible diversity has led to Vietnam’s best food scene, where you can feast on Hanoian specialties of pho, bun cha and bánh cuon – but also spicy noodle soup from Hue, sizzling crepes from the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City’s own version of broken rice with grilled pork. With the Delta just south, HCMC’s lighter cuisine features fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. I love that I can easily eat something different for every meal for a month, with no repeats.
Relatively low start-up costs and a young population with cash to burn translates to a ready market for returning Vietnamese entrepreneurs to open up their own restaurants. Chefs like Peter Cuong Franklin from the Michelin-starred Anan Saigon and chef Francis Thuan of Esta Saigon blend flavors and techniques they’ve picked up on their world travels with traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Similarly, HCMC has a booming artisanal food-and-drink scene encompassing everything from craft beer and contemporary gin inspired by Vietnamese botanicals to premium chocolate with cacao harvested from the Mekong Delta. HCMC’s large expat population also means you’re almost never more than 10 minutes away from world-class Japanese, Indian, Korean and European cuisine.
Then there’s the weather. While HCMC enjoys balmy shorts weather year round with only two seasons (hot and dry or hot and rainy), Hanoi can get shockingly cold in winter, with locals bundled up in hats and gloves while sucking in frigid air through their teeth. Did you really come to this part of the world to experience winter? I didn’t think so. And don’t even get me started on the air pollution: Hanoi’s is at times twice as bad as in HCMC.
It’s true that Hanoi does have some pretty neat destinations nearby. Yet HCMC is the gateway to the Cu Cu Tunnels (1.5 hours by car), the Mekong Delta (three hours) and the beaches of Vung Tau (two hours) and Mui Ne (3.5 hours). A larger international airport means more (and cheaper) flights everywhere, including the island paradises of Phu Quoc and Con Dao , just over an hour away by plane.
Culture vultures and history buffs can have Hanoi. But if you enjoy living the good life, I’ll see you in Ho Chi Minh City.
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Oliver Newman in Saigoneer Getaways 2023-10-06 04:00:00
On Japan’s Shonan Coastline, a Wintry Vista of Mount Fuji
It was my first trip to Zushi Beach and the sun was beginning to set.
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Tà Năng, One of Vietnam’s Most Beautiful Trails and Best-Kept Secrets
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Ho Chi Minh City Private Shore Excursion from Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam
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Adventures Travel Vietnam offers the best private Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursion for cruise ship passengers from Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam. We guarantee a local perspective that will give you and your family a once in a lifetime experience. ITINERARY: 07:00 – 07:30 Pick up from the Phu My port and transfer to Ho Chi Minh City 09:00 Visit the Reunification Hall 10:15 Visit the War Museum 11:15 Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral and the old Post Office 12:00 Have lunch at local restaurant 13:30 Visit China town and Thien Hau temple 14:30 Take the Trishaw to see the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese life everywhere – in the street markets, sidewalk cafes and sleek new restaurants and pubs 15:30 Transfer back to the Phu My port 17:00 Drop off at the Phu My port and finish your shore excursion.
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Ho Chi Minh City Private Shore Excursion from Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam: $512.83
The independence palace.
1 hour • Admission Ticket Included
War Remnants Museum
Saigon notre dame cathedral.
30 minutes • Admission Ticket Included
Central Post Office
Ba thien hau temple.
Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Palace, built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was designed by architect Ngô Viết Thụ and was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The War Remnants Museum is a war museum where contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists at 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, officially Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception is a cathedral built in the late 1880s by French colonists in the downtown of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The Ho Chi Minh City Post Office, or the Saigon Central Post Office is a post office in the downtown Ho Chi Minh City, near Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, the city's cathedral. The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the late 19th century
The Thien Hau Temple, officially the Ba Thien Hau Pagoda, is a Chinese-style temple of the Chinese sea goddess Mazu on Nguyễn Trãi Street in the Cho Lon of District 5 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
This activity ends back at the meeting point.
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- Wheelchair accessible
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- Travelers should have at least a moderate level of physical fitness
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Travel Advisory July 24, 2023
Vietnam - level 1: exercise normal precautions.
Reissued with obsolete COVID-19 page links removed. Exercise normal precautions in Vietnam.
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Vietnam.
If you decide to travel to Vietnam:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter .
- Review the Country Security Report for Vietnam.
- Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.
- Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist .
View Alerts and Messages Archive
Must have six months’ validity remaining.
One visa page required for entry stamp.
None. However, Vietnamese Dong in excess of VND 150,000,000 or foreign currency in excess of 5,000 U.S. dollars or equivalent must be declared.
Embassies and Consulates
U.S. Embassy Hanoi - Consular Annex 170 Ngoc Khanh Ba Dinh District Hanoi, Vietnam Telephone: From outside Vietnam: +84-24-3850-5000 From the U.S.: 011-84-24-3850-5000 From landline within Hanoi: 3850-5000 From mobile or landline within Vietnam: 024-3850-5000
Emergency: From outside Vietnam: +84-24-3850-5000 or +84-24-3850-5105 From the U.S.: 011-84-24-3850-5000 From landline within Hanoi: 3850-5000 or 3850-5105 From mobile or landline within Vietnam: 024-3850-5000 or 024-3850-5105 Fax: (+84-24) 3850-5010 Email: [email protected] Facebook
U.S. Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City 4 Le Duan, District 1 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Telephone: From outside Vietnam: +84-28-3520-4200 From the U.S.: 011-84-28-3520-4200 From landline within Ho Chi Minh City: 3520-4200 From mobile or landline within Vietnam: 028-3520-4200
Emergency: From outside Vietnam: +84-28-3520-4200 From the U.S.: 011-84-28-3520-4200 From landline within Ho Chi Minh City: 3520-4200 From mobile or landline within Vietnam: 028-3520-4200 Fax: (+84-8) 3520-4244 Email: Contact Us Here
EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBERS WITHIN VIETNAM
Police: 113 Fire brigade: 114 Ambulance: 115
Learn about the U.S. relationship to countries around the world.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Please visit the Mission Vietnam’s COVID-19 page for more information on entry/exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Vietnam.
Entry Requirements: You must have a valid passport and a visa (or pre-approval for a visa on arrival) to enter Vietnam. Your passport must be valid for six months beyond your planned stay, and you must have at least one blank visa page (not including the endorsement page). Visit Mission Vietnam’s website for the most current information. If you arrive in Vietnam without an appropriate visa (which could be an e-visa) or pre-approval for a visa on arrival, you will be denied entry. The U.S. Mission to Vietnam cannot assist U.S. citizens who arrive in Vietnam without required visas. U.S.-Vietnam dual nationals should consult the Department of State’s information page for Travelers with Dual Nationality and the Embassy of Vietnam for travel requirements. You must enter and exit Vietnam on the same passport. If using a Vietnamese passport to enter and exit the country, your passport must have at least six months’ validity from your return date to the United States.
Visas: When you apply for a visa to enter Vietnam, be sure to request the visa category that corresponds to your purpose of travel. Please refer to Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for information detailing visa categories. If you plan to work in Vietnam, you must obtain a work permit before applying for your visa. If you change the purpose of your visit after you have received your visa, you must obtain a new visa outside of Vietnam appropriate for your new activities before beginning those activities. Under local immigration law, employment-based visas are based on a petition from a specific employer, and workers may be unable to switch jobs without securing a new visa. In addition, employers may prevent the departure of contracted employees from Vietnam if they violate contract terms. Before accepting employment in Vietnam, make sure you understand the conditions of contracts and employment-based visas.
Please consult Mission Vietnam’s website for more information.
Please note that Vietnam requires a valid visa, residence card, or approval from the Immigration Department to leave the country. Immigration officials will apply a fee to replace lost/stolen visas or a fine for any visa overstays. The Government of Vietnam has recently increased the penalties for visa overstays, and fines can be substantial. In addition, the processing of exit visas for cases involving visa overstays can take one to two weeks.
If your U.S. passport is lost or stolen in Vietnam, you will need both a replacement passport and a replacement Vietnamese visa to legally remain in or depart Vietnam. The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City can usually issue you a limited validity replacement passport in as little as one business day for emergency purposes; however, the Vietnamese government requires three to five working days to issue a replacement visa. For lost and stolen passports, immigration officials will also request a police report. You must file a report of a lost or stolen passport with the police in the location where the loss or theft of your passport occurred, or authorities may refuse to accept the report. The U.S. Embassy and the Consulate General cannot expedite the replacement of your Vietnamese visa.
If you plan to travel from Vietnam to Laos by land, you should request that an adhesive visa be affixed to your passport instead of a detachable one. Lao immigration officials require proof that travelers have departed Vietnam, something that can only be shown with an adhesive visa. Vietnamese officials remove detachable visas from passports when travelers depart Vietnam, leaving travelers with no proof of their Vietnam departure. This situation can result in Lao officials requiring travelers to return to Vietnam.
Pre-approval for Visa on Arrival: The Government of Vietnam has authorized some businesses and travel agencies to arrange for pre-approval for a “visa on arrival” at the airport. However, some U.S. citizens have reported being charged unexpectedly high fees and additional charges upon landing in Vietnam. The Government of Vietnam and the U.S. Department of State recommend that travelers obtain a visa directly from an embassy or consulate of Vietnam prior to arrival.
E-visa: U.S. citizens can apply online for a single-entry E-visa on the Vietnam Immigration website . The E-visa is valid for a maximum of 30 days, single entry, and does not allow for renewal or extension from within the country. An E-visa is usually processed within three working days after the Vietnam Immigration Department receives the completed application and E-visa fee. E-visa holders must present the printed E-visa and valid passport at the port of entry. Prior to making travel arrangements with an E-visa it is advisable to review the List of Ports of Entry that allow for foreigners to enter and exit Vietnam by E-visa. When applying for an E-visa, carefully review and follow the E-visa application steps.
Certificate of Visa Exemption: Vietnamese nationals residing abroad indefinitely, their spouses, and their children may apply for a Certificate of Visa Exemption. The certificate has a maximum validity of five years, during which time the holder can enter Vietnam and stay for up to six months without applying for a visa. More information can be found on the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs website .
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Vietnam.
Immunization information for travelers can be found on the Centers for Disease and Control’s website .
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page .
Safety and Security
The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens overseas always maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness while traveling internationally. Please visit www.travel.state.gov for up-to-date information.
Messages regarding weather-related events are posted here and on the Embassy/Consulate General website .
While in Vietnam you are subject to Vietnamese laws. U.S. citizenship will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be arrested, expelled, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
Vietnamese authorities routinely do not provide timely notification of the arrest of a U.S. citizen to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General or approval for consular officials to visit U.S. citizens. The delays for both – particularly for access – can take several weeks. Note that if you enter Vietnam with a non-U.S. passport, the Government of Vietnam has different notification and access responsibilities for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General. See our webpage for further information.
Small-scale, peaceful protests occasionally occur in Vietnam’s major cities, but large-scale demonstrations are rare. As in any country, you should avoid large protests, as they can become violent with little or no warning.
The Government of Vietnam may not allow or authorize travel to certain areas of the country that are deemed sensitive. Check with local authorities before visiting border areas to see if you need to obtain a travel permit issued by local authorities. U.S. citizens have been detained after traveling in areas close to the Vietnamese borders with the People’s Republic of China, Cambodia, and Laos. These areas are not always marked, and there are no warnings about prohibited travel.
Safety standards in Vietnam are not at the same level as those in the United States and vary greatly from company to company and province to province. This is especially true for fire safety codes. Travelers should be aware that many buildings, including hotels, shops, and restaurants, have limited or no fire safety equipment or emergency exits. Ground and water transportation also lack safety regulations.
Travelers to Vietnam should have no expectation of privacy and should safeguard all personal documents and electronic devices. Exercise caution when discussing sensitive or proprietary information.
Crime: Crime in Vietnam is rated high. Exercise vigilance and the same commonsense security precautions you would in any major metropolitan city in the United States.
Violent crime against foreigners is rare; however, petty crimes, such as theft, bag grabs, and pickpocketing occur regularly, especially in crowded areas and tourist locations. Typically, there is a rise in petty crime during the Christmas and Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday seasons, including during the day and in well-lit areas. Motorcyclists are known to snatch bags, cameras, cell phones, and other valuables from individuals riding or walking on the street. If you are targeted by thieves, do not resist, and report the incident immediately to local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi or the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. Keep a tight hold on bags as you enter and exit vehicles and as you walk around. Hold tightly to cell phones when using them outside and lock and stow phones until you actually need to use them.
Some U.S. citizens have reported threats of death or physical injury connected to business-related disputes. You should report such threats to local authorities and if you feel unsafe, you should depart the country.
Keep your passport and other important valuables in your hotel in a safe or another secured location at all times and carry both photo and digital copies of your passport. You should immediately report the loss or theft of your U.S. passport to the local police and the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General. See section on “Visas” for information on what to do if your passport/visa are lost or stolen.
Sexual Assault: Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Sexual assault, harassment and rape do occur. To minimize the risk avoid travelling alone, especially at night; remain particularly vigilant in less populous areas; and be careful when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances. Local authorities may not always respond adequately to reports of sexual violence and harassment. If you are the victim of a sexual assault, you should report it immediately to local authorities and to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Male violence against women and sexual harassment is often ignored by the police. In areas foreigners frequent, women have reported harassment and assault such as men exposing themselves, asking for sexual favors, and groping.
Drugs: Recreational drugs available in Vietnam can be extremely dangerous and can result in death. Drugs sold in Vietnam may be fake, synthetic, or laced with toxic ingredients undetectable to the buyer. This includes nitrous oxide balloons widely available in nightlife establishments. You should also avoid purchasing liquor or cigarettes from street vendors or strangers, as the authenticity of the contents cannot be assured.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General for assistance. Vietnam’s local equivalent of an emergency line is 113. Local police will issue a report of a crime, but generally will only initiate investigations for crimes they determine serious, which do not always equate with U.S. standards. Investigations can take several months or even years to complete.
In the event you are a victim of a crime, local police will issue a crime report in Vietnamese, but generally will only initiate investigations for crimes they determine serious. While the overall situation is improving, some police have asked for bribes, ostensibly to support local police efforts or to facilitate investigation of a crime. If you are involved in a situation where a police officer is soliciting money, contact American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas .
- Help you find appropriate medical care.
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police.
- Contact relatives or friends with your written consent.
- Provide general information regarding the victim’s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion.
- Provide a list of local attorneys.
- Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the United States.
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited support in cases of destitution.
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home.
- Replace a stolen or lost passport.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy or Consulate General for assistance . Note that local authorities take a different attitude towards domestic violence cases and are hesitant to get involved in cases involving foreigners. Vietnam has very limited infrastructure to support victims of domestic violence.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage .
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to Vietnamese laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Vietnam are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines, or even the death penalty. Police periodically raid nightlife establishments suspected of engaging in the drug trade and during these raids will subject all patrons present to drug testing at the police station. A positive result, regardless of whether drugs were consumed in Vietnam or before entry, may result in criminal charges.
In Vietnam, you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have proper ID, such as a passport or a copy of your visa. Driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in a fatal accident could lead to immediate imprisonment. If you break local laws in Vietnam, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. Note that the Vietnamese legal system allows for lengthy criminal investigation periods that can lead to prolonged pre-trial detention; some investigations can last years without any explanation.
Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under the host country’s laws.
Arrest Notification in Vietnam: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General immediately. There are often delays in notification by the Vietnamese authorities to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General and officials have been known to delay consular access to prisoners for several weeks.
Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Although counterfeit and pirated goods are prevalent in many countries, they may still be illegal according to local laws. You may also pay fines or forfeit them upon return to the United States. See the U.S. Department of Justice website for more information.
Gambling: Gambling is highly regulated by the government and persons or businesses running games or gambling halls are required to be licensed. The Government of Vietnam pursues cases of running or playing in unlicensed games aggressively. There are currently U.S. citizens serving jail sentences of three to five years because of illegal gambling.
Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is accepted by the Vietnamese government in some, but not all, circumstances. However, dual nationals should be aware that Vietnam recognizes their Vietnamese citizenship as primary before others. In such cases, the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General may be limited in the consular services we are able to provide. U.S. citizens who also hold Vietnamese citizenship and are currently residing in Vietnam may wish to contact local authorities and/or seek competent legal advice on how local laws may affect their status. For detailed information on Vietnamese nationality law and other legal issues visit the Embassy of Vietnam website .
Work Authorization: The Government of Vietnam maintains strict laws with respect to foreign workers. U.S. citizens planning to work in Vietnam should make sure that they are in full compliance with Vietnamese regulations. Penalties can be severe and include deportation, fines, or detention. Vietnam immigration law allows for companies sponsoring foreign employees to exercise control over their employees’ visas, including prohibiting their exit from the country if they have any outstanding debts.
Teaching English: We advise those considering accepting an English teaching job in Vietnam to carefully review the terms of the contract regarding working and living conditions and to ask for multiple references from persons familiar with the institution, especially former U.S. citizen employees, before committing to contracts. Some U.S. citizens have reported their employers have reneged on contract terms, including offering significantly lower salaries than agreed or seizing their passports, and employers have caused complications with the exit visa process for employees who quit, complicating the exit visas required to depart the country.
Hotels: Hotels in Vietnam require you to present your passport (and visas, if issued separately) upon check-in so that your stay can be registered with local police. Every guest in a hotel room or private residence must be registered, regardless of nationality. If you stay at a private residence (i.e., at the residence of family or friends), you must comply with registration requirements by visiting the local police station and registering your stay within 24 hours. Some provinces allow registration online.
Exports: Vietnamese law prohibits the export of antiques. However, these laws are vague and unevenly enforced. Customs authorities may inspect and seize your antiques without compensating you, and the determination of what is an “antique” can be arbitrary. If you purchase non-antique items of value, you should retain receipts and confirmation from shop owners and/or the Ministry of Culture and the Customs Department to prevent seizure when you leave the country.
Imports: Vietnamese authorities have seized documents, audio and video tapes, compact discs, literature, and personal letters they deem to be pornographic or political in nature or intended for religious or political proselytizing. It is illegal to import weapons, ammunition, explosives, military equipment and tools (including uniforms), narcotics, drugs, toxic chemicals, pornographic and subversive materials, firecrackers, or children's toys that have "negative effects on personality development, social order, and security." For up-to-date information on Vietnam Customs information, please visit the Vietnam Customs website .
Freedom of Expression: The Government of Vietnam maintains strict control over all forms of political speech, particularly dissent or speech it deems as critical of the government and/or party. U.S. citizens have been detained, tried, and convicted for political activities (including criticizing the government or its domestic/foreign policies or advocating alternatives to Communist Party rule), possession of political material, and non-sanctioned religious activities (including proselytizing). Authorities have also detained U.S. citizens for posting messages on blogs or online chatrooms that are perceived to be political or critical of the government. U.S. citizens of Vietnamese descent should be especially careful with their online postings. Review the latest version of the Vietnam Human Rights Report for the latest information on Freedom of Expression in Vietnam.
Association with Groups: Persons whom the Government of Vietnam perceives to be associated with dissident or political groups may be denied entry to Vietnam, prevented from departing, detained, interrogated, placed under surveillance, or even tried and convicted. Note that if arrested, you could be subject to lengthy detention without access to an attorney or family members. U.S. citizens of Vietnamese descent should be especially careful about associating with dissident groups. U.S. citizen travelers have been summoned by immigration or local security officials for reasons that are unclear or not explicitly related to any suspected or alleged violation of law. We recommend that U.S. citizens finding themselves in this situation contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General immediately for further information and/or assistance.
Photography: Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in questioning by authorities, fines, or delayed travel. You should be cautious when traveling near military bases and avoid photography in these areas. Disputes: The Vietnamese government has occasionally seized the passports and blocked the departure of foreigners involved in commercial disputes. U.S. citizens whose passports have been seized by Vietnamese authorities should contact the Embassy or Consulate General for assistance .
Civil Procedures: Civil procedures in Vietnam, such as marriage, divorce, documenting the birth of a child, and issuance of death certificates, are highly bureaucratic and can be slow. Local authorities may refuse a request to include a non-Vietnamese name on a birth certificate. In addition, for those wishing to get married in Vietnam, you will need a notarized affidavit of single status. Please contact the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, D.C. , or the Vietnamese Consulate General in San Francisco or Houston concerning documentary requirements for these services. Enforcement of civil orders is frequently difficult or non-existent.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers .
LGBTQI+ Rights: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or in attending LGBTIQ+ events in Vietnam. See our LGBTQI+ Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.
Accessibility: Most public places and public transportation are not accessible to persons with disabilities. Sidewalks, curb ramps, restrooms, road crossings, and tourist areas are not equipped to assist such individuals. New, modern buildings and facilities in larger urban cities are regularly built with ramps and accessible entryways.
Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips .
Please visit Mission Vietnam’s COVID-19 page or more information on COVID-19 in Vietnam.
Medical facilities in Vietnam, including emergency response services, frequently do not meet international standards and may lack medicine and supplies. We strongly recommend travelers purchase medical evacuation insurance before visiting Vietnam.
- Medical personnel generally speak little or no English. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. You may obtain lists of local English-speaking physicians from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi or the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City from our website .
- International health clinics in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City can treat minor illnesses and injuries, but more serious problems often require medical evacuation to other cities in the region.
- Although you can purchase many prescription and non-prescription medications at pharmacies, some common U.S. medications may not be available. You should bring adequate supplies of medications for the duration of your stay in Vietnam and ensure with the Ministry of Health that the medicine you need is allowed to enter Vietnam. You should carry a copy of your prescription if carrying medicine in a travel case or container.
- We strongly recommend travelers purchase medical evacuation insurance before visiting Vietnam.
- Travelers to Vietnam are at risk of the following diseases: Tuberculosis, Dengue Fever, Zika, Avian Influenza (H5N1), and HIV. You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website .
We do not pay medical bills. The U.S. government cannot pay medical bills and does not provide medical assistance. Also, be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept upfront payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage . Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas. If covered by TriCare, check the TriCare website ( https://www.tricare.mil/ ) for additional information about overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation as it can cost many thousands of dollars. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.
It is extremely important that travelers have sufficient funds and/or insurance to cover any potential medical costs. Frequently hospitals will hold onto a patient’s passport as collateral for payment, and patients may have difficulty getting their passport back without paying their medical bills in full. Patients who do not pay their medical bills in full also run the risk of being barred from departing the country.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Air quality: Air pollution is a significant problem in Vietnam’s major cities, and you should consult your doctor prior to travel and consider the impact that seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on you. To obtain information on the air quality in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, please follow the link to the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website . Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City’s Air Quality Index (AQI) can be observed either by clicking on the Vietnam location on the map, or by selecting Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City in the “Select a City” option on the upper right part of the page. The page provides AQI over the last 24-hour period as well as pollutant concentration and a downloadable historical document.
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Traffic in Vietnam is dangerous, chaotic, and undisciplined. Road conditions are poor; traffic accidents are the leading cause of death, severe injury, and emergency evacuation of foreigners in Vietnam. Long-distance buses and trains do not meet U.S. safety standards. Buses and trucks are often overloaded and travel at high speeds with little regard to other modes of road transportation.
Traffic Laws: Driving in Vietnam is not comparable to driving in other countries. Vietnamese drivers routinely ignore traffic laws, causing traffic fatalities on a daily basis. We strongly discourage you from operating a motorcycle or scooter in Vietnam. Vietnamese drivers and pedestrians may not behave in a manner to which Americans are accustomed. If you do choose to operate a motorcycle or scooter in Vietnam, wear a helmet and always yield to larger vehicles. Motor bike fatalities are a leading cause of death or serious injury among foreign nationals visiting or living in Vietnam, with several fatalities having occurred on major roads and rural routes within the past year. If you are the victim of a serious motor bike accident in Vietnam, the prognosis for full recovery and survival is low due to Vietnam’s poor medical infrastructure. A motorbike license is required to operate a motorcycle or scooter in Vietnam. Motor scooter drivers without a license can be held criminally liable for injuries to or death of a victim in an accident, and you may be held in custody for an extended period of time without the ability to speak to family or a lawyer during the investigation.
Pedestrians should always look carefully in both directions before crossing streets, even when using a marked crosswalk with a green “walk” light illuminated or when crossing what is believed to be a one-way street. When walking on sidewalks, be mindful of scooters that may be behind you. Vietnamese commonly drive their scooters against traffic and on sidewalks.
Because the United States is not a party to the Convention on Road Traffic, international driving permits and U.S. drivers’ licenses are not valid in Vietnam. Foreigners renting vehicles risk fines, prosecution, and/or imprisonment for driving without a Vietnamese license endorsed for the appropriate vehicle. If you wish to drive in Vietnam, contact the Provincial Public Transportation Service of the Vietnamese Department of Communications and Transport to obtain a Vietnamese driver’s license. Note that you may be required to take a medical examination as part of the driver license application process.
For more information, please refer to Vietnam’s national tourism office website.
Bus System: While Vietnam does have an extensive bus system, buses can be overcrowded and are often driven with little or no regard for passenger safety.
For-hire vehicles: Major taxi companies tend to be reliable. Occasionally boutique taxi companies have rigged meters, particularly on routes to and from the international airports. Exercise caution in choosing ground transportation upon arrival at the airport in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Some travelers have reported being robbed by drivers who greeted them upon arrival with a placard showing the traveler's name. If you are expecting to be picked up, ask the company for the driver’s name, phone number, and license plate number before you travel. Areas outside of large cities typically have only rudimentary public transportation and often do not have metered taxis. Travelers are advised to use caution in these situations.
We strongly discourage the use of motorcycle taxis (known as “xe om”). Motorcycle taxis are unregulated and unsafe, and the helmets provided to riders offer little to no protection against injury in the case of an accident.
Smartphone-based for-hire vehicle services: GrabTaxi and local taxi companies are readily available, accessible via Smartphone apps, and routinely utilized by foreigners and locals.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Vietnam’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page .
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Vietnam should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts . Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website , and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) broadcast warnings website portal.
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories .
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook .
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Vietnam . For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act ( ICAPRA ) report.
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